Several weeks ago my car, a 2002 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, began to shudder and then seemingly surge forward for a split second around 25 to 30 miles per hour. To make matters worse, it happened intermittently. Then, it started happening at least once each way on my 60 mile daily commute at around 70 miles per hour. And those surges at 70 miles per hour were accompanied by a jolt that felt like something had hit me from the behind.
Aside from that the car ran fine. Gas mileage was its usual and very good 24-26 mpg and when the car wasn't surging, shifts were as velvety as ever. All the research I did on the symptoms, though, pointed to a failing transmission pressure control module; a $30 part. However, that $30 part is buried deep inside the transmission and would require the complete removal of the transmission to replace it. That's a big bucks repair job. I mean, "we need to think about getting rid of the car" big bucks repair job. And no, I'm not going to attempt to do something like that myself.
To my surprise and delight, after taking my car to a service center with a diagnostic scanner, turns out the problem wasn't the transmission but a failing mass air flow sensor. A mass air flow sensor, or "MAF", measures the flow rate of air into modern, fuel injected engines. The information that a "MAF" accumulates enables the engine control until to balance and deliver the correct fuel mass to an engine. The shuddering and surging my car exhibited was a symptom of a bad "MAF" that to me, at least, was manifesting itself as a problem with my car's transmission.
I declined the service center's quote of more than $350 to replace the MAF and bought one at Autozone for $127. Two screws and a plug in later, voila, no more surging. Incidentally, the service center charged me $150 for the diagnosis. Steep, yes, but nothing compared to the thousands transmission work would have cost.
Now, left to my own devices, I would have had the transmission out of the car and replaced the pressure solenoid only to find out that the car still had the same surging issues. Knowing what the problem was saved me time and most importantly, in the end, money. Lots of money.
Sure would be great if we could hook our kids and people who report to us up to diagnostic scanners. All too often we spend an inordinate amount of time reacting to what ultimately are symptoms of a problem as opposed to getting to the root cause of an issue. While it's easier, in theory, to get to that root of problems with our children than it is with our employees, still, knowing what is really going on with them puts us in a far better position to effectively parent and manage.
Behavior being a symptom, as managers we can't approach our employees with the same candor we do our children. If we did, we'd have a multitude of H.R. issues on our hands. Still, if we knew what was really going on, it would help us at least understand what someone is experiencing. Best we can do as managers is manage behavior whereas with children, it's best to get to the root cause of the behavior. The ability to get to the cause of a problem is the single biggest difference between management and parenting.
As handy as having "On Board Diagnostics" are, not having them, as is the case with my 1977 Corvette, is akin to going back to the stone ages in attempting to diagnose problems. For more on that, please click here. Going back to the stone ages with regards to automobile diagnostics or attempting to figure out what is going on with people.