“I’ve found something amazing and I need your science background to help me further explore and document my discovery,” he told me. “You’ll have to keep it a secret because this is big. Are you with me?” he asked. I told him that I would be glad to help but that I’m not interested in crawling into any caves or tight places. There are cameras for that! He agreed.
So the next weekend we hit the road at 5 a.m. with our supplies for an over night stay and a lot of rope. “Why all the rope?”, I asked. “You’ll see.” he said.
We went deep into the mountains and then took a dirt road off the main road. We stayed on this dirt road for about 30 miles and then we turned onto a big clearing. It was a pretty desolate looking location. “If you found a cave, wouldn’t it be in the mountain?” I asked. “This is different. You’ll see!” he replied.
We parked, grabbed our jackets and headed out away from the truck. “I was afraid to park too close. You’ll see why.” he told me. About 50 yards from the track, we came upon a hole in the ground about 3 feet diameter. “Prepare to be amazed,” he said.
“You brought me all the way out here to show me a hole?” I exclaimed. I was a little frustrated. “Yes! But this is no ordinary hole,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of reading on holes like this. These always lead to valuable things. These kinds of very, very deep shafts often contain diamonds or gold. That stuff forms in deep vents like this. Oh, yeah, did I mention that this is called a vent?” he confidently educated me.
“I know what a vent is, but how do you know this is a vent?” I asked. “The depth!” he exclaimed. All the books, the experts, the great explorers all say that to get the valuable stuff, you must explore a vent.”
“So I get that you’d like to get rich. And I get that lots of people recommend going down a vent to get those riches. But how do you know that this is a vent, which can be a mile or more deep, and not just a hole in the ground?” I asked.
“Easy! And you’re here to witness the discovery,” he responded as we headed back to the truck. “Last week I lowered a rope with a weight on it into the hole. It went down unobstructed for 300 feet. So this time I brought a lot of rope.” he studiously informed me.
“Jim [did I tell you his name is Jim?] I have an idea for you. If we set my camera to take a picture every 2 minutes, when we haul it back up we’ll get a pretty good look at your hole, ummm, vent.” I said. “Great idea! That’s why I wanted you here!” Jim said.
So we put Jim’s weight, an old 5 pound lead ball, at the end of the rope. About a foot up from the ball I attached my basic digital camera and set the interval to 2 minutes. I helped Jim carry the rest of the rope from the truck.
Jim gently lowered the ball into the hole and down into the darkness it went. The camera, a nice but inexpensive rugged model followed it. As we lowered the rope we saw a flash which somewhat illuminated Jim’s route to riches. “We know the camera is working,” I told him. Pretty soon we reached our end of the rope. We tied on the next section, tested it (I’d like to get my camera back!), and continued to lower the rope. Before long we couldn’t see the flashes. “See! It’s a vent! It’s way down there now! And Chris, there’s no slack at all! It’s still going down!” Jim shouted as though we were arctic explorers probing an ice ledge in a blizzard.
Jim continued to lower more rope into the hole and had now used about 1,000 feet of very solid rope down his vent in quest of riches. Then I stopped him.
“Jim,” I tentatively said, “I’m afraid you’re not going to strike it big with this adventure. In fact, you’re not even in a vent,” I told him. “Ridiculous! Look, feel this tension and it’s still taking rope! You can go back to the truck and have coffee, I’m sticking with my plan,” Jim told me.
As I sat in the truck watching Jim attach another section of rope while I enjoyed the guilty pleasure of hot coffee, I knew two things. One, Jim wasn’t in a deep vent of riches. Two, Jim wasn’t going to figure that out. I had to tell him.
How Did I Know?
Jim did, after all, bring me along to provide some science. I often find myself in this position. I’m brought in to give advice but my advice runs contrary to what the client believes to be true. It’s awkward. If I am to provide value, I have to be honest. So when I finished my coffee I decided it was time to tell Jim what was happening.
I walked over to Jim and said, “Jim, stop for a second. Let’s think about this. I know you are not in a deep vent that is several thousand feet deep. In fact, I can estimate that you are only about 300 feet deep. Look, that’s cool, it’s still a pretty deep hole. But it’s not a vent and there won’t be riches down there unless my camera falls off.”
Jim frowned. “But all the books say you have to find a deep vent and explore it. The rope hasn’t hit bottom, feel it!” Jim said, a little annoyed. “Jim, how much does 300 feet of this rope weigh? Better yet, it took both of us to get all this rope over here. How much does 1,000 feet of rope weigh?” “Jim, couldn’t lift 1,000 feet of this rope. If you dropped 1,000 feet of rope down a deep hole, we’d both have to hold on. The pull of the rope would be increasing as we put more and more rope down the hole. But, if the hole was around 300 feet deep, that weight, the pull, would level off and you’d never feel slack in the line.”
Jim blushed. “Jim, you have to consider the weight of the rope.”
This reminds me of so many business situations. We are told that we must get involved with Social Media or we must provide video content on our websites or we must adhere to the Holy Grail of LEAN. We must “stay the course”!
We’ll keep doing these things because of the pull of the rope rather than the discovery of riches.
Don’t keep doing something because there is no slack in the rope. Remember to consider the weight of the rope!
If the pull on Jim’s rope was not increasing, Jim wasn’t going deeper toward riches, he was just wasting rope.
When we hauled the rope all the way back we saw a couple flashes as the camera approached the surface. The pictures showed a pretty cool hole, maybe it was a core test from long ago, and then there were a series of images of the rope covering up the camera until things got dark. Then there was a series of pictures slowly uncovering the camera followed by a rather dull trip up a dirt hole.
Don’t be fooled by people or projects or programs which would have you keep feeding rope into a hole.
Remember the weight of the rope.
Chris Reich, CEO