No One Likes to Look Foolish

If I’m being completely transparent, I’m not a huge baseball fan.  However, there is something that I enjoy seeing in baseball that is akin to enjoying Shark Week on television.  You love watching it, but there’s a surreal discomfort that comes with it.  When a pitcher, particularly one who throws hard and can find his spot, is able to fool a batter with a changeup, it is truly a work of art.

Allow me to elaborate.  Great pitchers can dominate games if they throw their fastball in the high 90s (above 95 mph), and put it right where they want, relative to the strike zone (the distance between the batter’s knees and his waist, and the width of home plate.  If a pitcher can consistently throw hard, and locate the ball in various locations around the outside of the box I just described, he will make a lot of money.  A – LOT – OF – MONEY!  Location is critical.

Speed is also critical.  The pitcher’s mound is 60’ 6” from home plate.  A high performance major league pitcher can deliver the ball to the catcher in exactly the spot he desires in roughly 0.44 seconds.

Major league batters have less than half a second to decide if they are going to swing or let the ball go by, allowing the umpire to call a ball or a strike.  Great batters are successful at making contact and putting the ball in play safely almost one third of the time.  The timing and athletic skill that is required to pick up the ball leaving the pitcher’s hand, and swing and make contact in various locations based on mid-swing adjustments, is amazing.

Now, enter the changeup.  What pitchers have figured out is if they hold the ball with one more finger, increasing from two fingers across the laces of the ball to three fingers across the laces, they can keep every other body motion, speed and strength the same while reducing the velocity of the ball by as much as one third.  That means that a 95 mph fast ball, with the same wind up, facial expressions, intensity, arm motion and speed, can come in at 60 – 80 mph instead.

What does that mean for the batter?  Well, he was planning on having .44 seconds to get his bat around to make contact with the ball.  Now, as his bat is crossing the plate, the ball is still 5-10’ away.  And the more he tries to slow this swing down, in the midst of this realization, the more foolish the batter looks.  When highly trained athletes who spend 10,000+ hours honing their skill get out of sorts, it can get real ugly.   It’s similar to a horse tripping during a race, or an Olympic diver overshooting and creating a big splash, or a quarterback pivoting the wrong way while attempting a hand off – only to find the running back and the entire offensive line went in a different direction.  The batter’s body becomes contorted and the bat is out of position, sometimes his feet get twisted up, all in an effort to slow down the bat with a futility that becomes evident on his face rather quickly.

So, why all this talk about changeups in baseball?

Well, in our business when one of our Facility Managers (FM) has to deal with a change order, it’s very similar to the batter dealing with a changeup.   Much like the batters timing, the FM has a rhythm to his business too.  They have a budget and commitments to stakeholders for what they plan to accomplish in the company’s fiscal year.  That’s why we work so hard to do everything we can to avoid change orders at RFS – the last thing we want is for our valued client to look foolish.

Recently we were presenting our capabilities to a group of Facility Managers at their regional meeting.  We had just completed a successful job for one of them a few weeks earlier (this was a new client) and we were invited in to share with their team.  We asked our client to share the details of his specific job during the presentation, and he gladly did.  He did a nice job describing the scope of work, and how we left the work area clean each morning for operations.  When he was done his boss asked him, “How many change orders where there?”

To which he replied, “none.”

(Boss)  “How many?”

(FM)  “None”

(Boss)  “How many?”

(FM)  “None”

It was a bit uncomfortable in the room after his boss asked him the fourth time how many change orders – we all knew the answer.  There were none.

This exchange reminded me, again, how committed we are to “getting it right the first time” and avoiding change orders. We spend time with our clients to ensure we understand the needs and goals of the project—always listening, then responding.

I got the feeling that there was so much emotion in this exchange because they had been burned by change orders in the past.  It seems like it has gotten so bad that some companies use change orders strategically, to artificially lower the original estimate to win new business, with an ultimate goal of surprising the customer with change orders along the way.  That seems like such a short-sighted strategy to me.

One thing is for sure, no one likes to look foolish, and at RFS we are Remodeling the Renovation Experience, with a goal of never making our clients look foolish.