John Spathonis is an engineering manager with the Department of Transport and Main Roads, Queensland, Australia. He sent me this story about a Go-To-Guy, who influenced his career when he was a still wet-behind-the-ears apprentice:
“George was a diesel fitter and a very smart man. It was a shame but George was also deeply troubled as a result of the Vietnam War. George was sent to do some emergency field repairs to a road grader that had broken down. It was important that the grader be put back into service as soon as possible. It eventuated that the cast iron casing of the power steering pump had cracked completely through on one side. I think the pump was a simple gear type. Please forgive my memory because this was about 30 years ago. With the main pressure housing cracked most diesel fitters would have given up, as a replacement pump was the only solution. George was not your average fitter. To keep the grader running for a few days, George did a quick fix. He skew drilled a hole in the housing across the crack and installed a bolt to hold the crack tightly together. To my admiration this worked (possibly lost a few drips of oil) and the grader was able to be used until a new pump was available. The lesson I learnt and have applied in my life ever since, is you cannot break something that is already broken…just give it a go.”
For those unfamiliar, Queensland is a huge and relatively sparsely populated state-especially 30 years ago. The broken down grader that George had to deal with was probably stuck in the middle of nowhere. Nearest town 200 miles away. And they get one delivery a week. On a Friday. And today’s Saturday. This is just the sort of mission you want your #1 Go-To-Guy on: “With the main pressure housing cracked most diesel fitters would have given up…”
But not George. He knew there was nothing to lose: the pump was already broken. So he dared the skew-drill and bolt fix — and won. Do you think George ever got laid off when the order came from above to reduce the head count? Nope. Like most Guy-To-Guys, I’d say George had a job with Main Roads for as long as he wanted it. And through his own ‘can-do’ example, spawned many other Go-To-Guys within. Including I suspect, John who sent me this story.
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