One common way for organizations to resist innovation and change is for people to collect evidence that any novel tool or procedure is causing problems–even if the problems predate the change.
Craig Hansen, the Army base’s energy engineering technician, decided to retrofit all 740 of his urinals over the objection of local plumbers. “The plumbers felt that these things were a threat to their livelihood,” Hansen says. “They don’t like change.”
Hansen heard a flood of complaints early on: The urinals stank. They were dirty. Where was the flush handle?
In one building, the complaints were so vociferous that Hansen started an investigation. He found that the bathrooms did indeed stink, but the urinals appeared clean. He suspected there was something else going on and decided a little experiment might flush out the problem. He bought a smoke bomb, lit the fuse, dropped it down the main sewer line, and waited. Hansen observed that the sewer vent outside the building was placed directly in front of the structure’s air intake. Smoke flowed out of the vent and was immediately sucked back into the building. He also found a cracked toilet in the women’s rest room that spewed smoke. The urinals, however, emitted nothing. The cartridges were doing their job.
Hansen concluded that the smell had always been there, but people didn’t have anything to blame it on until the new urinals arrived.