The tree or the forest

What do you see? Are you too close to the tree or can you see the forest? I’m sure you’re glued to the tree and can’t see the forest that’s right in front of you. In any case, that’s what happens to all the business executives I work with. They are all glued to the tree.

I would like to tell you about one of them. I can see them evolve, mature in their role, which is great. However, with this growth comes a host of problems and emergencies to be addressed. As everything goes very quickly, they set up “Band-Aid solutions” here and there to quickly solve the problems. Over time, these “Band-Aids” come off and another short-term solution is put in its place, and this happens over and over again.

Does this mean anything to you? Over time, you have made decisions for the good reasons at the time of taking them. You set things up. You are in your daily life, with your problems. They become familiar, turn into a habit over time, and become normal. And you don’t see them anymore, what a tragedy!

What is really going on? I do management coaching with them. They’ve been telling me for several weeks that there are more and more problems. Everything is always urgent. They are understaffed. Some employees leave the company, and several employees go on sick leave. It is a crisis, what is there to do? They tell me we need to hire more people, in order to handle all the problems. They ask me what I think.

I propose to make a diagnosis of the departments in crisis. To fully understand the problems and especially the causes of these problems. My goal is to identify these causes and propose solutions, the right ones.  In order to see the big picture, we must first step back from the tree to be able to see the forest.

I start the diagnosis. In the Lean philosophy, there is what is called waste or non-added value. These are all the tasks that we do daily but for which our customers do not pay us, for example moving around, waiting, or doing unnecessary things.

In one of the departments, there are four sectors. From the first hour of observation, I can already see the forest, which they can’t see yet. The employees constantly move around!  It might be to go look for something in the other section, then to go to look for a document, again to go to look for another thing, for an equipment… In a day, I count more than a thousand trips, just for one person! I then count those types of trips for the whole team.  Gosh, the numbers are huge!

There is also transcription of the information. In one document, and another, and another and then in an Excel file. Same thing for another task, there are more than 5 transcriptions and it is repeated with several other tasks.

I then sit down with senior management and show them the observations and numbers from that first day. The CEO is excited, the head of the department is also excited, but a little skeptical. It’s normal, I made him back up from his tree, he’s not used to see the forest. The next day he is with me in the department, with the employees, and I show them the forest. They question, justify things. They’re trying to get closer to the tree.

I then continue to show them their forest. On the 3rd day, they finally start to see the forest. We are already making changes to a workstation to eliminate 12 trips to do 1 job. We move some equipment, we review the sequence of some tasks, it’s simple. And there are no more trips. We have just eliminated thousands of trips in a week.

The employees are excited about this simple change. At the end of the day, they are much less tired. They are smiling! Motivated to make more changes, ideas are overflowing! They suggest a lot of things to improve their work. There you have it, I sowed the seed of continuous improvement. And there is sun. The seed will grow.

Ultimately, they won’t have to hire more people. But they will have to review their processes and the layout of the premises. When we are caught up in our daily life, problems become habits and normality. We lose sight of the forest, we are to close to our tree…

If you think that you are too close to your tree, contact me. I will show you the forest in front of you.

See you, Liza.

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