Nonsense At Work: Do something or get fired

This summer I read David McCullough’s book on the building of the Panama Canal. The book, called ‘The Path Between the Seas’, is as much about the engineering miracle as it is about the triumph of leadership and management.

The book has more than 600 pages, but one page still stands out in my memory. On this page John Stevens, the Chief Engineer for a number of years and for all practical purposes the CEO, makes the following point:

“You won’t get fired if you do something, you will if you don’t do anything. Do something if it is wrong, for you can correct that, but there is no way to correct nothing.”

Exactly. That’s the way to create miracles. Do something, fix it quickly if it turns out wrong and then learn from it.

Almost one hundred years later, many managers seem to promote the opposite view. No wonder business miracles are in short supply.

I’m James McIntosh at