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Thinking you know is not knowing.

Jim McGriff's picture
First-managment Consultant First-line Managment Consultant

I do not claim to be and expert. As a matter of fact if anyone claims to be an expert in management watch out they will lie about something else.My stories come from these experiences:Managed 5...

  • Member since 2011
  • 3 items added with 2,879 views
  • Jun 15, 2020


Thinking you know, and knowing you know is vastly different. 

Thinking you know is not knowing. You think you know, but you are not confident enough to risk a big decision on your knowledge. You have to take a chance, and when you succeed, you know.

Lynn bid on a meter reader job that went to any available source. Any available source means that any employee in the company could bid on the job posting outside of our division. Lynn was a crew leader lineman in the company high line crew. He wanted to get out of that job. Lynn bid on the meter reading job and got it. So this meant Lynn lost his seniority in the division for a year. 

I was showing Lynn a meter reading route in downtown Haleyville. I was taking an electric distribution system course at the time. I asked Lynn if he had a key that would get us into a substation. He did. We went into the central downtown substation. I asked Lynn what that piece of equipment was; He did not know. I said I think it is a lightning arrester; it is grounded and connected to an energized wire. Lynn did not know. That is when I realized that linemen did not know much about the distribution system; they build it. 

In my third month as a business office manager, I went to the company engineering climbing school. During the school, I trained on how to hand crank a voltage regulator in a substation. I cranked a regulator in a dummy substation.  The instructor told me not to stop cranking between steps; if I did, the regulator would burn up. I could hear the regular make the steps. 

 At Dora, I had voltage regulator problems at West Jefferson Substation. The motor shorted out that ran the voltage regulator. I thought I knew how to crank the regulator manually.  I knew it was risky; but, I took the change and was successful. Now, I know how to crank a regulator. Thinking you know is not the same as knowing you know. When you know, your confidence shows your fellow employees they can trust and follow your decisions.

A few years later, Lynn called me about low voltage in the central substation in Jasper. He was now an office lineman. I went to the substation to investigate the cause and found the voltage regulator circuit breaker was defective. I called the substation crew; they could not come for several hours. I asked Lynn have you ever cranked a substation regulator. He said no. I said, well, you are going to see how to crank one now. I took the handle and cranked the regulator. Knowing that I could do it was different from thinking I could. 

We have made significant advances in electric distribution systems monitoring over the last few years. We have computer dispatch programs, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), electronic breaker controls, electronic metering, and many other advances. But, when something goes wrong, we most likely have to send a lineman or engineer to fix our problem. Today’s world requires first-line managers to keep up with technology changes.  Employees must also know how to operate our distribution system in the field. 

While I was in Jasper, we converted a substation to a Schweitzer electronic breaker control system.  A technician ran through how we would interrogate the breakers by selecting a port for each breaker. There were no mechanical relays in the breakers. When the technician finished his instruction, I asked the linemen if they understand. They said they did, how could this be since I did not understand. 

I took the manual home. Over the weekend studied the manual. I cut and pasted together on one page how we would interrogate the breaker control. Monday morning, I took the lineman back to the substation. Each lineman went through the procedure on the page I created for them. Now they knew what to do to find targets on the breakers. 

A year later, I was the Dispatch Supervisor in our Division Control Center.  We had a breaker problem in the Winfield substation. It had Schweitzer controls installed; the lineman did not know how to interrogate the control panel. I went to my office, got my instructions, gave it to the operator. The operator walked the lineman through the procedure.  The system control engineer was standing there to help the operator. He asked me if he could have a copy of my instructions. 

Our industry delivers power to our customers; this power can be dangerous if not monitored and handled correctly. We cannot repair trouble sitting behind a monitor in a central location. Our companies must have knowledgeable people in the field. Someone will have to know how to crank a regulator and how to interrogate electronic controls. Training employees is most important, so they will not have to take chances to get from thinking they know to knowing they know.  

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jun 15, 2020

I took the manual home. Over the weekend studied the manual. I cut and pasted together on one page how we would interrogate the breaker control. Monday morning, I took the lineman back to the substation. Each lineman went through the procedure on the page I created for them. Now they knew what to do to find targets on the breakers. 

This is great to read-- any professional in any space will have blind spots; they don't know what it is they don't know. That's where collaboration, cross-training, and this type of leadership can come quite in handy.

Jim McGriff's picture
Thank Jim for the Post!
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