Dish watcher 👀

I’m trying to find everyday examples of applying a mode of being vs having, that can translate into project application. Here’s a comparison of two similar projects of repair and how they differed in control framework and why.

In the last month my boiler and my dishwasher both needed expert repair. Neither were time consuming or expensive. In theory one manner of engaging a service repair could have worked for both. However, here’s how they compare using the criteria of visibility | behaviour | trust.


This was a recurrence of a problem. A case of wear or tear of a known weakness in a system, a valve that is prone to perish. My relationship with my heating engineer is long-standing and mutually respectful. He charges at reasonable rates. I do not shop around. He explains the fix, because I want to know. I know enough to give him an idea of what he is likely to need to repair. I can offer no value to the repair, other than give authority to conduct what must be done. He is responsible. I am accountable.


A leak in an old appliance. An asset being sweated to it’s last. Unexpected failure and cause unknown. With no prior knowledge I was prepared to learn some basic checks for wear, blockages, replacements of rudimentary parts such as rubber seals. All were performed as a make-do and see, and a means to understand a little more. No success. Time for the local repair man who I also know well enough. Available but not for two weeks. I chose to wait for this someone because of past experience and trust.


The boiler system repair was to be instructive. Dishwasher was enquiring. I offered little ability toward either expert. But there was benefit in being more attentive to the situation least well understood.

I remained close at hand as the dishwasher was expertly checked over. Nothing obvious was wrong, so further enquiry began. I remained. I offered him some latitude to experiment. He fed back immediately. We shared ideas, his with the expert perspective. Mine only from a basic understanding but a willingness to learn. Note how proximity was key. How this enabled optioneering. Being present offered the expert more latitude and clarity on progress on the go.

A fix was eventually found, authorised immediately, permitted to be performed and to fail. It happened to be a good idea and it fixed the problem. Kudos to him. But the risk of failure was retained by me, as project initiator.

In broad terms here is how each compared.

Boiler repair

Clarity of understanding: medium-high

Chance of failure: medium-low

Visibility: low

Behaviour: distant and instructive

Trust: High

Dishwasher repair

Clarity of understanding : low

Chance of failure: high

Visibility: high

Behaviour: present and enquiring

Trust: High

Judging the control framework to project need

The key project observation to make is the control framework I implemented in each. I was engaged enough to at least be an informed buyer. It enabled me to determine a need to be closer when the uncertainty was higher, but also when the specialism necessary was less. It could have been very easy to use the same distant and authoritative approach to each. I think most people do just that. Simply have a contract of service. Be happy with a result, or debate what level of service was received. But note the success of the second, was modestly influenced by the initiator, and trust retained by acknowledging a risk was not better passed on – despite me being no better able to manage it therein.

How relevant is this as a comparison for commercial projects?

This simple comparison is a foreshadow of additional comparisons I will be introducing in upcoming blogs. I see direct comparison to larger scale commercial projects to explain what distance we can close when being an active participant vs passively having change implemented on our behalf. Using these same metrics of what I, as project initiator, could actively be. What it is to be part of the process vs to have an outcome bestowed.

These are the same metrics I am introducing throughout this series. This reasoning will be used in each case. It may offer some insight into how we can all assess how active and present project actors are. Or the more present they should be required to demonstrably be. Next, I will introduce a concept I think we all misunderstand. The transient nature of responsibility, and static nature of who must be held to account.

I am building a case. I am gathering examples of comparison in more complex situations. I hope you will stick around to see more…

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About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

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