Story Construction

First Draft, Worst Draft

August 7, 2014

I heard the phrase “first draft, worst draft” from a high school senior speaker, Cole Andersen, at Ames High’s 2014 commencement. He had me at hello. What a powerful statement. The essence of the speech was: it is important to start somewhere and improve upon it. Being a student at Ames High is the first draft. Graduating from high school provides the opportunity to build on and improve the first draft. Not discard it – improve it. Not start over – keep the good parts and build on them. First draft, worst draft.

While listening to Cole, I immediately thought about the work we do on projects. This work includes the spectrum – from prior to design to construction and afterward. We need to start somewhere. The first draft. Whether it means the ideas we conceive in our head or on a napkin,or a schematic design, or an operational plan to execute work on a project, the first draft is rarely as good as we can make it. Don’t despair, it’s a natural process. Keep what is good and improve upon it.We see the value engineering process in this way. Using the quality circle metaphor of Plan-Do-Check-Act, those steps applied to the design and construction process are Design-Estimate-Understand-Value Engineer.Keep working to improve; to make the focus of the work better. The message Cole delivered to his high school classmates was one of encouragement. Keep what is good and continue to improve the rest. Always remember where you started(high school) but don’t get stuck there. First draft, worst draft.I liked the message. I liked it enough to share it here. Insights and wisdom like this can come from many places, even high school students. My daughter, a graduating senior, reminds me of this often.

Mike Espeset with daughter Claire; Ames High School Graduation


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