The other day I was chatting with a client when an analogy popped into my mind: Humans vs. Machines.
We were discussing labor shortages and running lean with the individuals we have on the team and evaluating how to manage it all right now with the new normal.
Running Lean and Super Busy: The New Normal?
We talked about the challenges facing businesses today:
- Everyone is working extremely hard.
- Staff is lean.
- Zoom meetings or team meetings run back-to-back all day long, some even over-lapping.
- Schedules are challenging to make for people, trying to meet demands.
- Many employees, who work virtually or not, are being pulled in a variety of directions with many different priorities & focuses.
These are the real challenges that many businesses, managers, and owners are currently facing. In our discussion, we agreed that each time you think you are getting back to some sense of smoothness or “normalcy,” something else happens to change it.
Someone gets sick, needs to have surgery, has a family member who requires their attention, goes on vacation, quits, is learning a new skill – it just doesn’t seem to be any different than that.
Maybe “Normal” as We Knew It Doesn’t Exist in a Post-Pandemic World
After listening and talking about this with several clients, I want to offer you this:
1. Maybe this IS normal. Perhaps this is exactly how it just IS. Maybe we can stop waiting for the day it is not anymore and recognize that this is the way the days, weeks, and months just ARE. When we face each moment as if it ISN’T supposed to be this way, we cause ourselves more unnecessary stress, frustration, and impatience. When we can look at and accept it, we can do what needs to be done, plan for it, accept it and feel peaceful, resourceful, and proactive toward it. We avoid being reactive, defensive, and living in survival mode.
2. The big question: WHY? Because we are humans – not machines. We all have limits. We all have imperfect, ever-changing lives and we are a collective bunch of imperfect and ever-changing humans in this together.
Post pandemic or not, it’s just reality.
During our conversation, the idea of a factory came to mind.
I was thinking that even though we are NOT machines and cannot be expected to run like a machine, even if we were and did, there’s a few points a factory production owner would be considering:
I was imagining a factory that produces things, widgets, for example. When production increases and demand increases, a factory owner needs to determine what to do about it. There are choices available to them and decisions to be made. They could:
- buy more equipment to produce more widgets
- choose to upgrade their equipment to the latest state of the art equipment
- use the same equipment and machines that they’ve had all along and run them more to increase production. Instead of 8 hours per day, run them 16 hours per day or even 24 hours per day…
- raise their prices enough so that the demand slows again, and they don’t need to make any changes at all to their equipment; just improve the profit margin of how much they make per widget.
A business owner has options from which they could choose.
Each one has its advantages and drawbacks:
- Buying more equipment costs money, adding to the cost of goods. While it might alleviate the workload on the current equipment, you need to justify paying for it.
- Upgrading equipment costs money – and time- as you swap out old with new and train to learn the new as it gets up and running. A point to mention is that there wasn’t anything wrong with the old equipment, it simply wasn’t keeping up with the current production demands.
- Running the existing equipment more, longer, and harder may not be sustainable. There will be downtime for maintenance, upkeep, and repairs. Also, the life of the machine may be shortened, and the components of the machine stressed.
- Can raising price really be sustainable? Is it worth improving profit margins over more units sold? Is that the best business decision?
There are many pieces to evaluate and consider, and there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer. The choice one makes can always be re-evaluated later.
We Humans Are NOT Machines.
If the “equipment” in my analogy is a team of humans who are imperfect and ever-changing, not only must we be mindful of all the above, but of the reality of the human element as well.
Humans require maintenance, just like machines.
When people are worked too hard, they break down without proper care.
As leaders, when we expect our people to run like machines, we are not truly seeing what it takes to run the most effective, efficient, and quality business we can so that our profit margins, units, and quality are running at their highest potential levels.
We are not machines. Yet, when we can understand what it takes for each of the components to run at their maximum potential, for the long-term life rather than MAXIMUM output in the short term, we can enjoy the payoff for the long term. When we set up and plan for reality, for our best outcome long term, we can achieve so much more – and all enjoy it.
The Wisdom I Want to Offer Up For Consideration is This…
- Evaluate the pros and cons of each of them – realistically and honestly – when making the decision.
- Put all the plans into place to support those decisions, noting the pros and cons and being realistic about what really IS, rather than what we want to hope or pretend it will be.
(Putting a maintenance service program into place if you plan to run equipment 24 hours a day makes sense, rather than hoping it will never break down or waiting for it to happen…which will cause more downtime, and money lost later)
- Be willing to watch and evaluate honestly, realistically, and carefully to determine what works and what does not. Most importantly, assess whether something needs to change now. It’s ok to make new decisions as you see the results of the ones you make play out.
Let’s close with a definition of a good leader:
Someone who can be realistic and plan for the best case and the worst case and be willing to look at the data to make new decisions that serve the company, its equipment, and its people best.
Contact us at Strive Coaching Studio for innovative solutions to all your leadership dilemmas. We have a solid foundation of success to share so that your business can be the best it can be!