Recently, I have been reading a book on achieving superb results in all that we do; on the job, at home, in the community, in life. The Excellent Experience by C. David Crouch has numerous concepts that easily apply to our world of achieving safety excellence. We all get to juggle and struggle with the never ending daily tasks that seem to consume an inordinate amount of time and deliver little or no worthwhile results. I guess we all have a full plate. And so the question, and a piece of the answer, comes down to what do we allow to be on our plate? And how do we prioritize what is on our plate?
In previous career positions of responsibility, I found the tyranny of the many often obscured the necessity of focusing on the critical few. I could check off any number of small items on the “to do list” and feel good at the end of the day about all the small line items that had been accomplished. Yet when the next day reared its ugly head the critical few seemed to laugh at me for being consumed with the never ending day-by-day stuff and nonsense.
David Crouch writes about the solution nugget to this activity trap that in turn comes from the legendary world famous basketball coach John Wooden: “Never mistake activity for achievement.” My experience with this critically necessary solution approach had two paramount aspects:
- Sit down individually with each team member and go through their overwhelming repetitive “to do list.” We would discuss and then decide what to cross out or severely limit the frequency of in all the non value added stuff that kept robbing them of the time needed on the critical few. But these were the friends they had been living with for a long time and it was hard to not regress to the good old ways with which they were so comfortable. That meant a periodic review of their “not to do list” to make sure that these time consuming dogs had truly been dispatched and not just wounded, healed and returned to the land of the time waster living.
- Begin a team engagement process that brings many of the hourly and salaried team members together in continuous improvement (CI) teams which deliver root cause solutions to all the daily difficulties. Some solutions focused on equipment issues, some on paperwork, some process, some personalities, some……. What we were doing was adding knowledgeable resources to drive a stake through the hearts of all incoming minutia that kept us from concentrating on resolving the critical few. These CI teams resolved literally hundreds of issues which had been burying all of us; and which all the while had been making us feel good about daily task closure/fire fighting; which all the while kept us from digging out from under the pile of activities that did not deliver achievement. Each of the CI team small solutions also delivered additional moments for all of us to work on the critical few. At the end of a year, their hundreds of small improvements freed up time to work on the bigger items. Additionally, they also picked off pieces of the bigger issues that in turn made the harder items easier to solve.
You might want to order a copy of C. David Crouch’s book.