An Experiment in Following Instructions

If you want to get me ranting, encourage me to tell you about people who don’t follow instructions.

I don’t generally comment about work here, but I happen to work in a manufacturing environment, where everyone is building products according to blueprints, with somewhat detailed manufacturing instructions.  Once in a while someone just goes off and does what seems right to them, or they read 1/2 of the instructions and ASS-U-ME the rest, and pretty soon we have trouble in the form of irate phone calls and e-mails, and product that needs to be re-worked. 

In my work, we build relatively small things.  I know of a woman who was having a house built.  At some point, she realized that the construction crew was building the house to a mirror image of the blueprint.  So her front door became her back door, etc.

Anyhow, I just got a chance to quantify how bad people are at following instructions.  I am playing in an online chess tournament at Chess.com that has one rule.  The tournament is called The Dark Knight Opens, and it began on the day that the new Batman movie was released. 

Like I said, the tournament has one rule.  If you are Black, your first move has to be with a knight.  If you break this rule, and make your first move with another piece, you forfeit the game.

So, how many players could not follow this one rule?

71 of the 300 players had to forfeit games because they broke the rule, for a 23.6% failure rate.

123 of the 611 games were forfeited, for a 20.6% failure rate. 

The moral of this story is that if you want something done right, it is best to make a system that makes doing the wrong thing difficult or impossible.  Othewise, don’t be surprised if even the simplest requests are not followed.

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