May 14 2013

I wrote a few years back about Short Termisim and although the tone, looking back on it wasn’t brilliant, I believe the content to still hold true. I have recently been witness to something that I have seen time & time again. Something such as a training course, improvement project or other activity that will deliver long term benefits which is planned, scheduled and sometimes even paid for has been cancelled or pushed back due to the urgent issue of the day.

Sure there are occasionally valid reasons, things that if not dealt with immediately will have dramatic long term effects. But quite often, it is merely the latest “fire” on the shop floor that if the people who were going to be trained, involved in the project or otherwise not available for a day, 2 or more are not there to deal with it, amazingly those who are left manage. OK, sometimes not as well as would have been the case had those people been on site & available, but dealt with none-the-less.

Some time ago a particular manager I was working with was suggesting that he was way too busy to focus on a project that he had committed to because of the demands of his “day job”. He then went off sick for 2 days and amazingly, the business carried on as they do when people go on holiday & are otherwise unavailable.

We like to think we are indispensable, we like to think that if we aren’t there, available at any moment then the business will fall apart. I can assure you, it is highly unlikely. True there are many single points of failure – I once worked in an organisation that had 1 guy able to deal with a certain servo used on 4 of their presses, he went on holiday for a week and we were unable run 2 of those presses by the Thursday due to breakdowns. Amazingly the business still exists and is still making a profit.

Nobody is indispensable and to think you are belittles all those you work with. We all go on holidays, occasionally have days off ill & our businesses and organisations survive, and sometimes thrive! As leaders our job is to lead the business to a better place, to improve all aspects and this is best done through the development of people. Holding back on training, improvement projects or other long term activities in order to deal with today’s issues means we don’t really see the big picture – and without the big picture we follow the cycle around and around the downward spiral.

At some point leaders need to step back to plan, organise & execute improvements. This is best done by developing people & ensuring they are given the time & support to make improvements themselves. If we can’t do that, how will we ever improve? A few months ago I actually had a manager tell me “we have too much to do to spend time improving our business” – what do you think? Any chance they will be successful? Long term?

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