If it looks straight then it is straight

We put up a new wall in a very old house without a level or a tape measure, and it looks great!

When you can’t “measure twice and cut once”, don’t measure at all, cut in small increments and affix with screws.

Best practices and standards exist because they are best practices and standards. They provide the results written on the tin, not necessarily the results you want. If you don’t take stock of the world around your tasks then doing the right things can lead you to the wrong outcomes.

Picking the right tools for a job is only half the battle. You also need to know when and how to use them.

Doing the right thing doesn’t always give the right result.

As renovations continue in the old house we turned to demolition in the bathroom. A very small pokey room with just a shower/bath and sink the idea was to remodel to include a second toilet. No matter what way we arranged the new fittings in the room it just wasn’t going to work. The only sensible option was to sledge hammer down an internal wall and extend into the useless space on the other side.

Returning from the local hardware store with wood struts in hand I watched as our friend took to task. A few minutes later he had two uprights in place. He took a stroll a few meters away, sunk to one knee, closed one eye and turned his head to the side. Quizzing him on what he was up to, he let me know that he was “checking if it was level”.

I pressed as to why he didn’t use an actual level to work that out. His retort, “If it looks straight, then it is straight. There isn’t any point making a new wall level if all the ones around it aren’t level to begin with.”

He showed me (with a level) that all the existing walls hadn’t been put up straight. If we didn’t follow the existing lines for the sake of being “right” the new walls were going to look horrible.

What you see is all there is.

  • Daniel Kahneman

Use screws not nails. Take stock of the bigger picture.

Putting up a straight wall in a crooked house delivers a “correct” execution and a poor result. The results are all that really matter.

Given no straight walls or uniform base to work from I asked how we could successfully complete the task by eye.

“Easy” he said. “Use screws not nails.” Allow for adjustments.

Using nails to fix things into place precludes adjustment without serious effort. Using screws, while more expensive, allows you to set, assess, remove and set again if needs be.

Transferring this into your every day work if you are given a new task don’t start in the details. Don’t reach straight for the standard tools. If you jump straight into the HOW and put no effort on the WHAT and WHY then you are more prone to toil away building a perfectly useless outcome.

Context really matters.

Have you ever avoided doing the “right thing” to produce the “right result”?