A few years ago, I found myself outside a hospital walking past this presentation. Following the name of the hospital, the sign says:
“For our Non-Smoking Patients, Visitors & Staff
“If You Must Smoke Please Move Further Down The Sidewalk To The Seating Area
If you look further on, you can see that there are seats and standing ash trays for those wishing to smoke.
My guess is that they wanted to create a smoke-free area for people to enjoy, so they stuck a sign in the middle of the rocks to tell people where they should go to smoke.
Now, look carefully at the rocks below. In memory or concern of loved ones who have been treated at the hospital, guests have started taking rocks and writing their names. It’s become a sort of memorial rock garden with hundreds of named rocks.
Yet there is no acknowledgement of this spontaneous memorial which surely has gone on for some time. Nor has there been any embellishment of the area to more fittingly pay tribute to this gathering of stones. Indeed, if anything, the sign telling people where to smoke almost stands as a sword stuck in the middle of the pile, completely oblivious to what people see as the real purpose of this unplanned sanctuary.
If you had planned this garden out, would you have put a glaring non-smoking sign in the middle of it? The fact that they put so much attention on the sign and not on the garden, sends a flag to me as to what is really the priority.
Most of us are familiar with the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself. Few of us may be familiar with the Platinum Rule: Do unto others as they would like to have done unto themselves.
I think there was good, caring intention with the sign. We all want clean air. But I think to overlook the rock garden was a bigger mistake. Clearly, this little pile of stones means a great deal to people. I think that’s what is really important to them. Why take away the focus or make it ugly with a sign–even if the sign’s message is important?
This happens all the time in organizations. We do things with good intent. But do we do them with the customer’s intent? Do we really think what might matter more to them? That’s the opportunity for all of us.