Some words just cost more than others. And “should” is one of the most expensive because almost everywhere it’s used you’ll find waste and loss of time and money. Everywhere you find “should” in communication this week, take a deeper dive. You’ll find a world of opportunity there to close gaps and make things better.
“What happened last night?” I asked him as we both stared at the cage of scrap parts from the night before.
“They didn’t change over to the right setup,” he replied.
“Do… you know why?” I asked as my mind was trying to dig deeper into the dilemma.
“No. They should have known it was the wrong setup for that job,” came the reply
“Did they have the right information?” I asked.
“They should have been able to look it up in the book,” he said.
“What I don’t understand,” I interjected “is why this didn’t get caught in the initial quality check. They should have noticed it there.”
Should… is an expensive word.
I’ve found that whenever “should” shows up in a conversation, somewhere there was a gap in a process, documentation or communication. Somewhere, the ball was dropped.
Should is so intriguing. If it could be converted over to a percentage, it would be something like 95%.
Like, It’s almost 100%, but not quite. It’s almost a done deal, but not guaranteed. You can almost take it to the bank, but it’s still risky.
Should is like a foundation with a crack. It looks strong but you’re not entirely sure you can trust it.
Imagine jumping out of an airplane. “Will my parachute work?” you ask. “It… should”
Doesn’t give you a lot of confidence does it?
It’s confusing because when it is used, the intention is actually to convey something sure and dependable.
And yet, in reality, that 95% might as well be 5%.
I’d venture to say that Should… should have a warning label.
“Warning: when using this word, understand that you are almost certainly guaranteeing a failure at some point”
It’s a dangerous word to throw around.
But, if you’re observant, it can be one that can help you hone in on potential issues in your business.
Try this exercise. For the next week, look for any shoulds that you come in contact with in your own conversations or with others. And then do some investigative or follow-up work. Whenever someone has used the word, dig deeper. If it’s used before an event (“I should be able to get that done”), challenge the user to solidify their goal or see if there is a reason why they aren’t more confident in it.
If it is used after an event (“they should have known that we agreed on that”), consider pulling all parties together to figure out where the gap occurred (if it did) and what needs to happen to make things more clear. Maybe it’s instructions that need to be clarified or someone was left off an email chain or was outside the loop in some way. Or maybe the main person in the area was out and their fill-in wasn’t aware of some tribal knowledge.
Should is expensive. And Should can be dangerous.
But should is also an opportunity, both to teach and to find those leaks in the boat and shore them up.
Well, that should be about it on this topic.