Sunday, July 07, 2013

Priorities 101: I have to fell trees ...

Once upon a time ... ... I was wandering around the woodlands, when I heard a faint noise that drew my attention. I closed in on the noise and coming closer I heard heavy breathing and moaning and swearing and cursing - and the sound of an old mechanical saw cutting through timber.
Then I finally came to a clearing in the woods and saw a huge guy covered in sweat, wielding and old and worn out buck-saw to cut slices from an enormous tree he had cut down earlier.
I greeted him friendly and inquired as to why he was swearing and cursing so much. He looked at me friendly and explained with great patience "You know, the work of a woodworker can be really fulfilling if you have the right tools and are able to really excel at your work. But me? I only have this worn out buck-saw and I have way more work to do than I ever can finish."
So I asked him: "But what about those sharpening tools over there? Why don't you use them to sharpen the blade?" He looked at me worriedly. "Haven't you been listening?" he sneered, "I have way too much work to do, I DON'T HAVE TIME TO SHARPEN THE BLADE". And with that he turned around and started sawing away at the giant tree again...

I have heard and told this story in a dozen different ways - but I constantly have to remind myself to take my own advice. It's just too easy to get carried away in the everyday struggle of "getting stuff done" to take a look back at the big picture.
When I worked on the Hands-on lean and Agile practices course together with Tom Breur I realized that I had a lot of tools in my back that I constantly introduced to other people but neglected to leverage in my own work. Re-introducing things like A3 thinking and root cause analysis into my everyday (business) life has proven to be quite effective – and I am really happy that I took the time to sharpen the saw a little bit.

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