Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Farm in the Jungle

I tell the participants in my workshops on management and supervision to think of their organization as a farm in a jungle. Without careful attention, the jungle will grow back.

It's sad but true. Neglected operations do not naturally veer toward efficiency. We are not even dealing with something as relatively predictable as machinery. On the "farm," certain chores have to be done at certain times in order to produce what will be needed, whether that is shortly, in the near future, or even many years from now. Pests, weather, and weeds may intervene. The occasional wild animal may appear.

There is a tendency, usually acquired in childhood, to think of the world as a place that generally operates in a logical and orderly manner. You start with "Once upon a time" and conclude with a dragon being slain, a princess being kissed, or a room full of smiles and answers. We take a class and, after a certain period of time, we complete it. We learn to write papers in a neat chronological order. We are subtly taught that if anything goes wrong, it's because a mistake was made. Anything disruptive is an aberration.

As a result, many of us think we are little Masters of the Universe.

I can't recall the name of the sage who suggested that historians would be more accurate to say, "Peace broke out" than to say "War broke out."

That's realistic and it should encourage a little humility.

It also helps to keep in mind novelist and screenwriter William Goldman's description of the film industry:

"Nobody knows anything."

Get to work. Keep the jungle at bay. Always be learning.

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