The difference between the truth and the facts

THE DIFFERENCE between "the truth" and "the facts" is not philosophical hair-splitting; it's actually quite orthodox. While something is either true or not, and something is a fact or not, something can be a fact without being true and can be true without being a fact. This distinction is relevant to us because it sometimes become part of a legal argument in a problem job situation. Take yourself

THE DIFFERENCE between "the truth" and "the facts" is not philosophical hair-splitting; it's actually quite orthodox. While something is either true or not, and something is a fact or not, something can be a fact without being true and can be true without being a fact. This distinction is relevant to us because it sometimes become part of a legal argument in a problem job situation.

Take yourself as an example.

While it's true you may have graduated college, isn't it a fact that your degree only gave you a slight advantage in trying to land your first real job in the real world?

Is every single line of your resume factual? Did you actually project manage or was it co-manage or even a junior under a senior project manager on that huge job you brag about on your resume? Does the truth of what you actually did on that job take precedent over the fact that maybe you're stretching the truth a little?

Take some typical job situations. Is it true that you promised the owner that you'd have his building ready for the final walk-through next weekend? Or, is it a fact that you were crossing your fingers while praying that he'd not call you on it because you knew that if worse came to worst you could always fall back on the facts of the hard language in the contract and wiggle out of that promise you made?

Is it a fact that you attend all job meetings and are logged in as such? Or is it true that no one cares that the GC logs you in as having attended, but God help you if the job goes into liquidated damages because of something you missed by not actually being at a meeting.

Is it true that you know of misfeasance by another contractor on the job who is using substandard materials and workmanship and getting away with it because he's bribing the GC's QC guy? Is it a fact that by contract you are required to bring evidence of such violations of contract principles to the attention of the architect immediately but won't do so because you fear retaliation by the other subcontractor and others on the job for being a "snitch"?

It is true that you get paid every pay period. But is it a fact that you'll be paid on time next one?

It is a fact that you have a contract that gives you certain performance bonus payments if certain job profitability goals are met. But is it true that you completely trust your company to do so?

The best "fact" in the world is one that is so manifest that its existence can simply not be disputed.

A couple examples are, "This material meets such-and-such a contractor specification and any independent testing lab can confirm that it does." Or, "The mason was not on the job last Friday as promised, so it held my crews up a full extra three days. Ask anyone else on the job. Nobody saw him or his crew."

The best "truth" in the world is also one that cannot be argued with, such as, "While that submitted part does meet spec and is on the preferred list of vendors, I can give the owner a better one for the exact same money and better specs. It's also American-made instead of Chinese-made. If he'll let me do a pro forma after-contract submittal, he could incorporate it by exhibit into a post-contract addendum."

Or, "That mason not being on the job put us three days behind schedule but the GC won't do anything about it. I'm asking you to work a little harder, a little faster and maybe even a little unpaid overtime to catch up so we can get back on schedule or there will be hell to pay from the home office."

A photograph of something is not a fact. It is the truth about how something was at the moment the photo was taken. The object in the photo is the fact.

A promise made but not documented was true when it was made. But it's not factual unless it's documented and cemented by agreement of all parties and signed off on.

A system passing an inspection by a municipal inspector is a fact, but the truth may be that he let you or your crews slide by on one or two small errors that have nothing to do with life-safety issues and that are "to be corrected later."

That I've been writing a column on project management for CONTRACTOR most months since 1998 is a fact. The fact that this is the best job in the world to me and that I've ever had or will have is the truth.

H. Kent Craig is a second-generation mechanical contractor and project manager with unlimited Master's licenses in boilers, air conditioning, heating and plumbing. He can be reached by calling 919/ 291- 0878, or via e-mail at [email protected]. His Website is www.hkentcraig.com