“If a battle can’t be won, don’t fight it. “— Sun Tzu

When I was growing up on my parent’s dairy farm, there was a story that I loved.  A farmer had one great field except for the big rock in the middle. For years the farmer plowed and planted and harvested around the rock. One year, the farmer finally decided to do something about the problem so the whole area could be more easily used.

The farmer brought all sorts of equipment to dig out and perhaps break apart the rock. The first tactic was to dig under one corner of the stone to see the full extent of the issue. The result was a shock. The rock was only about 1 inch thick. The problem rock was quickly removed.

However, that story has a counterpoint. In working in my garden, I have often found rocks whose visible area is small but when investigated, are much more extensive under the surface. Those rocks are icebergs! They require considerable time and effort to remove, and digging them out may impact the plantings around them.

When looking at new projects, I always like to look under the surface of the ideas from two angles.

Step one: Look at the value of the project being considered.
Would doing this project make a significant difference? How would it improve things for ourselves or our customers? For the farmer, the value of having that rock gone should have been a compelling enough reason to move to step two.

Step two: Look carefully at the project and determine how much work it will take to get it done.
Some high-value projects are more straightforward than anticipated. The trouble is that most projects are like those iceberg rocks. Taking them on will require time and effort and may have far-reaching repercussions. Look at how big of a rock you are trying to move. Take the time to consider how much these projects will really cost.

Look carefully at both the value and the total cost. For some rocks, continuing to plow around them might be the wiser choice.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett

Sunrise in a city very near Death Valley in California

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