These issues are symptomatic of rural lifestyles – we have exactly the same here: our phone apparently loops out into the lawn before heading up the short driveway (about 25 metres), under the long driveway (about 110 metres), up to the gate, back under the long driveway, does a few more loops outside the gate before ducking back under the fence to the Telecom connection point…
At the time we put in our garage in 2007, we got the Telecom guy out to track the cable’s path before we did any serious digging – just in case – and marked it with some dazzle paint. Over time the dazzle paint became distinctly less dazzly, and eventually faded away before I got a Round Tu-it vis-a-vis actually mapping its path for next time that information was needed.
So I sympathise with Nick because we’ve been in exactly the same position and launched off on the advice of ‘well-informed’ and “knowledgeable’ locals and also ended up with recreations of the Somme. Maybe it’s symptomatic of us and knowledge guys, just like a mechanic always drives the crappiest old car, or the talented joiner you know hasn’t had a handle on his loo door for coming on five years (yes, you know which son-in-law you are!!), that we struggle to apply what we know professionally when we step through the gate of home sweet home…?
So in regard to the five lessons learned functions of collect, analyse, decide, implement and verify, it sound much like Nick has skipped what is probably the most vital function, that of Analyse. More often than not in lessons work, the raw OIL is not as it seems and when subject to a lens of rigorous analysis, the issue and the actual lesson are often totally different from that which you might expect at face value from the original OIL.
It is so very tempting, especially in metrics-fixated environments, to seize the apparent low hanging fruit and find that one very quickly goes from a mess to a really mess and all of a sudden you are reacting to your solution, somewhere in which is buried the original core issue. What’s that I hear from the cheap seats? Sounds like ‘COIN”? Absolutely!!! Those five same functions apply just as much in COIN, although we’d prefer to use Irregular Warfare when in polite company, as they do in lessons learned:
Collect as much information as you can about your problem.
Analyse it, ignoring you preconceptions and gut instincts; examine it from every angle, and develop some courses of action.
Decide which course of action you are going to implement – it’s OK to opt for none and go back to do more collection and analysis.
Implement your course of action, all the time ensuring that situation hasn’t changed around you, reverting you to dead-horse-flogging mode.
Verify that your solution has addressed the original issue AND that it hasn’t created a whole bunch more.
In the story that Nick tells, he does not provide much information regarding his neighbours reliability as an information source but it is probably a safe assumption that there was no malice involved. Taking a punt, it may have been that the map provided indicated the intended path of the drains until someone remembered the village story about a German bomb landing in that corner of the field and not making the right sort of bomb post-impact noises. Discretion being the better part of valour, the drain took the longer road – just in case – but a drain’s a drain and why bother the council with any explanation of why the permitted path wasn’t followed. Whose to know? Well, for starters, the guy who is out “…an extra day and half of digger hire and labour rates, 10 dead trees, and a garden that looks like the Somme at the height of World War One…”
This would be something that we would see time and time again in the ABCA Armies Coalition Lessons Analysis Workshops (CLAWs): We just can’t, well, shouldn’t anyway, take presented information at face value be it raw OIL or a map of the drains without asking some critical questions about it…and being prepared for some answers that might be both unexpected and unpalatable…