Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Emerging Contaminants and Cars-going-off-the-Cliff

"It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and THEN do your best." - W. Edwards Deming

The topic of Emerging Contaminants came up earlier this week while discussing future of wastewater treatment plants on the US. My opinion is that we are focusing on the wrong place with regulations and our hard earned money.

The metaphor I would like to cite here is often used but very apt and may help us understand what's happening with this issue. Consider a steady stream of cars driving towards a cliff and then plunging off into the abyss. The 'leaders' here look at this devastating situation, get all worked up and quickly decide to do something. Instead of going to the top of the cliff and diverting the traffic off the course of disaster, the 'leaders' decide to get a fleet of ambulances at the bottom of the cliff. That is exactly where the regulations related to Emerging Contaminants are headed, it is a waste of money and effort. This after-the-fact treatment rather than avoidance is really scary. Our 'leaders' have either given up rational thinking or do not think that they are leaders capable of affecting human thoughts and behavior.

The solution is - Think Differently!
How did Southwest Airlines make double digits profit when all the other US airlines were losing billions of dollars and shedding off thousands of jobs?
How did Zappos build a $1+billion company that sells shoes and also 'delivers happiness'?
How did Dr. Wiwat prevent 5 million people in Thailand from contracting HIV?

If the cause is right and the messaging is right, people will follow. We, folks in the water industry and beyond,  have to learn to engage with our customers in a whole different level. Let's start that now!

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