Git ‘r Done

It’s rare I post items so quick in succession, but I’m trying to post a bit more often and these topics work together.

I mentioned in my previous post about the group of people I work with on the NCRC Educational Committee.  But I wanted to follow that up with a comment about a goal

In cave rescue, our goal is to get the patient to the surface as quickly and safely as possible in as good or better shape than we found them.

Ultimately that goal should drive pretty much everything we do on a rescue.

Sometimes though, students fail to see it that way. On one hand it is amusing when we watch students take a simple problem and over-complicate it. Sometimes two instructors will look at each other and ask, “why are they doing it THIS way and not THAT way?” During training it’s easy to refocus them and remind them what the goal is. At the end of the week of training we have a mock rescue where the students are on their own. At this point, if they lose focus of the goal, they may take longer than they expect or wish to.

During one practice I was on as a studnet, a discussion began about how to move the litter with the patient in it under a tight low roof along a stream passage. After a minute or two of discussion, 2 of the other students and I looked at each other and realized the other members of the group were too focused on convincing the other members that their way was the best way to move the patient. The entire time they were trying to “win” the conversation, which had apparently become their current goal; the patient wasn’t moving.

So, the three of us simply moved the patient quickly and safely to the other side of the obstruction. After about a minute, the conversation stopped and the folks on the other side of the discussion realized the patient they were arguing about moving, had been moved. Things improved from there.

Now, by no means should it sound like I’ve never lost focus (see my post The Hunger Games for an example of a potentially more dangerous situation where I definitely lost focus of the correct goal.)

But this leads to a question: “How should the goal be accomplished?”

To give an example, perhaps I can build and operate a beautiful 4:1 haul system where every leg collapses the optimal amount and I can operate it with just 2 people.  Or, I can put up a 1:1 haul system that’s inelegant and requires 6-7 people to operate it.  Both will move the patient, but which one is “better?”

Well, honestly, “it depends”.  If I have plenty of extra people and I’m short on time, I’ll go with the 1:1 almost every time.  It’s simple and it works.  It can be setup in just a few minutes and requires very little equipment.

But what if I’m tight on people and I have the time?  Perhaps then the 4:1 is the proper solution.

This is where experience and judgement come into play.  Both systems “Git ‘r Done” and both can help me with my goal of getting the patient to daylight. And that is my goal in a rescue.  My goal in a rescue is NOT to build a beautiful 4:1.  My goal is to build a system that gets the patient out safely and quickly.  If a 4:1 will work best to accomplish the goal, I’ll do that.  If it won’t. I’ll forgo it, no matter how sweet and sexy it may seem to me.

We sometimes teach students a handy metric of two questions to ask themselves:

  1. Does it work?
  2. Is it safe?

A 4:1 that isn’t fully rigged when the patient arrives fails the first question, no matter how elegant and well it may operate when its finally rigged.

On the other hand, if the 1:1 is fully rigged, but I don’t have enough folks to operate it, it also fails the first question.  However, if I have enough folks to operate it, I’m not going to start discussing how there might be a better way to rig it with fewer people.  Note that “is it the BEST or OPTIMAL solution” isn’t part of the metric.  In this case, it really doesn’t matter.

Keeping these questions in mind can often negate extra conversation (such as the example above of the patient not moving while folks were discussing the BEST way to move him.)

So, when you face the task of solving a problem, especially one with time pressure and that is most likely a one-off, ask yourself if the solution you currently have is safe and if it works.  If you can answer yes to both, then Git ‘r done.

Smart People

Like many, from time to time, I’ve had the distinction of being “the smartest person in the room”. (Often that’s when I’m the only guy in the room, but that’s just a minor detail.)

This past weekend though, I had the pleasure of being in a room full of people where I was definitely not the smartest guy in the room.  One of my side activities is working with the Educational Committee of the National Cave Rescue Commission. This entails, among other things, having face to face meetings once or twice a year. During this time we work on the curriculum, trying to improve it every year.  This weekend’s meeting had 8 people (including myself) in attendance.  The people there bring an extremely wide degree of skills to the table, ranging from medical experience, SRT experience, grammar experience, experience about ropes and devices, rescue experience and more.

With such a diverse background, there are times when not everyone is in agreement on various teaching points.  But, while there may be spirited debate at times, everyone still keeps the end goal in mind: developing the best possible curriculum for cave rescue.

However, one has to be careful about “the smartest guy in the room.”  There is an old joke about a plane about to crash. It has 3 passengers, a Boy Scout, a priest, and a Nobel Prize winner and 2 parachutes.

The Nobel Prize winner grabs a pack shouts, “My discoveries will save the world, I deserve to live” and jumps out of the plane.

The priest tells the Boy Scout, “Son, please take the last parachute.  I have lived a good life and I am prepared to meet the Lord”.

The Boy Scout turns to the priest, “Don’t worry Father, the smartest guy in the world just grabbed my backpack and jumped out of the plane.”

Being smart doesn’t make one immune from error.  But surrounding oneself with smart people can often lead to better solutions.

You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, but you should at least try to surround yourself with them.