Everyone should do things my way

I’m having a side conversation with someone as it relates to sewing and a point arises that needs clarification. Yes, I want everyone to do things my way.

It is not because I think I’m right.
It is not because I think I know the best way to do things.
It is not because I think I know the only way to do things.
It is not because I think other people’s opinions do not matter.
It is not because I think others don’t know anything.
It is not because I think others are incompetent.

People are missing the point.

It is a paradox. If you can get everyone to do the same thing the same way, it creates the opportunity for creativity and problem solving. Isn’t that what you want? Freedom to do it your way -which is presumably better? If everyone has been doing things in competing ways all this time and it hasn’t produced consistent results for everyone, how will continuing to do that improve anything? Follow me:

Situation A: Imagine there are ten people who do X the way I say to do it. Now imagine that one of them ends up with a crappy result. This means there are nine people who can help that person solve their problem. With nine people, one or more of them will be able to explain the process better to the person with the problem.

Situation B: Imagine I tell these same ten people to do X however works best for them. Results will be all over the map. Maybe three, four or even six people are successful -all with different methods. [This presumes everyone agrees those people had a successful outcome.] Those three, four or six are going to be spread pretty thin trying to get everyone else to get a good result. It will take more time, more effort and in the end the path is not clear with the group having gone off on so many rabbit trails with competing methods. In the end, the “best” method will be determined by whoever wins the popularity contest. I think this pretty much describes the status of “the sewing industry”.

Situation A (part two): Let’s imagine the ten people who did what I said repeat the exercise over and over and everyone gets a perfect result repeatedly. Is that the end of the story? Do we pack it in and go home? Not at all. For most people this is good enough but in my opinion, our job has only just begun.

If you have ten people doing the same thing in the same way, eventually someone is going to come up with an idea to make X even easier. What will happen then? Almost instantly, everyone else is going to know whether the new idea is going to work so ten people are excited and set off to do it. If most of them get a good result the new way, we can say the change is worthwhile. Our job will be to refine the change so everyone has the same result.

I repeat, it is a paradox. It is only by doing things the same way that we can come to do things differently which will make the way we’re doing things better.

So that’s where I come in. I am only trying to get people to do things the same way so that we can improve how to do things. I do not think I know best. I am trying to get everyone to the same level, the same stage where we have the same result so we can begin our job of making the results even better. As in simpler, faster or less expensively. However, if everyone is doing things however it works best for them, we won’t have nine other brains to work the problem.

This by the way, is the simplest redux I could come up with to describe standard work.

An aside as to whether you should do what I say versus what someone else says. It does not matter who is doing the saying. The method doesn’t matter either. It only matters that everyone do it the same way. Once everyone can get the same result, only then can improvements be introduced. Again, nearly all methods can stand improvement so the secret to consistently better sewing is to get to the improvement stage faster which is where the real job begins. But, if folks are still arguing about which method is better, they’ll never get there. Whatever it is, whoever says it, just get there faster.

I think for some people that lowering the barre with a good process that permits a new sewer to do as well as someone with a lot of experience is threatening. That could mean that all the time and effort they put into acquiring what they’ve learned was a waste of time and money. I disagree, people who dedicate themselves to craft are not stupid so the matter only becomes one of consistency. Having reliable and predictable results for basic processes should be liberating. Instead of fretting over something like setting a pocket, they become free to practice more advanced skill development. Personally, I find it more challenging and inspirational to be surrounded by people who sew as well or better than me.  So maybe that is what it boils down to. Those who seek challenges to prove their mettle by growing the playing field versus those who need the affirmation of being better than the least adept.

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