Practice Makes Perfect

A best-selling book from 2008, Outliers: The Story of Success, made the point that top performers in any field follow what the author labeled the “10,000-hour rule.” That is, it takes around 10,000 hours of practice to perfect a complicated skill. Another book published in 2003, Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science, made a similar point. The author, Dr. Atul Gawande, referred to data showing that the best surgical results had little to do with where the surgeon went to school or which hospital he or she works at. The best results occur from surgeons who had performed the same procedures thousands of times, no matter what their training background.

In other words, practice makes perfect (or as close as humanly possible). The world’s top concert musicians devote countless hours to practicing on their instruments, the best golfers spend hours each day to hitting hundreds of balls on the practice range, etc. Practice makes perfect applies to virtually any human endeavor.

This leads to a conundrum. If we need surgery we’d all like to be operated on by a surgeon who had done the procedure thousands of times. Yet before any surgeon performs a 1,000th operation, he or she had to operate on a first patient, then a 10th and so on. You and I would prefer not to be one of those early patients, but somebody had to be.

Our plumbing customers face a similar conundrum. You’d all like to be serviced by a pro with years of experience, but a technician must pass through a novice phase before he/she becomes experienced.

At Dutton Plumbing we are proud to say that most of our technicians have years of experience under their belts. Sometimes, though, we find it necessary to train an apprentice, and at some point we have to send that apprentice out on service calls alone. How do we balance the need for the novice to gain experience with the need of our customers to be serviced by someone who knows what he/she is doing?

Well, it’s comparable to the way airline pilots get eased into command of a cockpit. At some point a newly promoted captain will take charge of his first flight. But it’s hardly the first time the person has ever flown a plane. Before getting to that point they undergo hundreds of hours of training in airplane simulators, then they serve many flights as co-pilots, sometimes taking control of the plane under supervision of an experienced pilot. When they are deemed competent enough, they will be given control on their own.

That pretty much resembles how we do things with our technicians. Raw apprentices will receive many hours of classroom instruction learning the basics and then they accompany experienced technicians on service calls. There they watch and learn, and sometimes get invited to perform certain tasks themselves under supervision.

When they first get assigned their own service truck, we may ease their way by assigning them to routine maintenance calls at first, then gradually give them more complicated jobs. If they run into trouble with something they haven’t seen before, we’ll send a more experienced technician to help out. (At no extra cost to you, by the way, since our job pricing assures you’ll know what the job at hand will cost before work begins no matter how much time or how many people it takes us to get it done.)

Training, by the way, never stops at Dutton Plumbing. Novice and experienced technicians alike are required to attend regular training sessions to learn about new products and techniques of our trade. After training, our technicians get plenty of practice solving your problems in the field.

So rest assured that whether we send out our most experienced pro or a technician on his first call alone, your problem will get the attention it deserves.

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