Monday, January 7, 2013

Cutting Corners

By Julie Rahm

     Before you dismiss this week’s column as the typical “do not cut corners” diatribe, let me assure you I am a corner-cutting advocate where it is safe, legal, and ethical to do so. In life, there are more opportunities to advantageously cut corners than not. Obvious corner-cutting opportunities start with driving the car. If you’re headed south and west to Interstate 95, rather than taking Highway 70 all the way to I-95, in Goldsboro, you could take Highway 13 south and cut the corner. Other corner-cutting opportunities are more complicated.
     I have a Masters degree in Industrial Engineering from Georgia Tech. During most of the curriculum, manufacturing efficiency, i.e. cutting corners, was the focus of my studies. My favorite industrial engineering story is one that starts on a toothpaste tube assembly line. The assembly line wasn’t working properly. Too often, the filled toothpaste tubes were not being inserted into their little cardboard boxes. Consequently, empty boxes were being wrapped, shipped and sold! The company management was exasperated and finally hired a bunch of diploma-certified industrial engineers to solve the problem. At seven-digit expense, the engineers designed and installed an elaborate scale that would automatically weigh the toothpaste boxes and divert the light weight, empty toothpaste boxes off the assembly line. The system was sophisticated, expensive and itself needed a lot of maintenance. However, it worked as advertised and the company management was pleased with the solution.  One fine day, company managers toured the assembly line to view their success and discovered their multi-million dollar fix was not operating. A high-school-dropout assembly line worker was queried. The uneducated worker reported management’s sophisticated scale device had broken down months before. With the sophisticated scale broken for months, company management couldn’t understand why the empty box problem had not returned. The assembly line worker stated he moved a big electric fan next to the toothpaste box conveyor belt. The electric fan blew the empty boxes off the belt! Problem solved! Oh by the way, the cost for cutting this corner with the electric fan was zero. The industrial engineers were deservedly humiliated.
     What about corner cutting in relationships? Corner cutting in relationships is usually perceived as moving too fast. If, on your first date together, your date wants to meet the rest of your family, there is too much corner cutting! However, on-line dating services are institutionalized corner-cutters and designed to economize your efforts. Prospective mates are personality matched. Time spent discerning attributes is not wasted. Your date arrives with some relationship framework already constructed. Like pre-fabricated housing, your relationship gets delivered with some parts already put together. Like it or not, statistics report over 30-percent of relationships start on-line. 
     So my point this week is to create awareness and enable us to recognize when corners are being cut. Sometimes it will be advantageous and sometimes not.  Either way, I recommend awareness and a conscious decision. To gain awareness and decision-making skills in your life, visit my website at   

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