Ploughing Fields in the Snow

Most farmers will tell you that you don’t plough fields in the snow. It will usually create a boggy mess, it won’t do the field any good and quite simply, it’s a complete waste of time.

Don’t worry, I haven't turned this into an agricultural blog, I just thought this was a useful analogy. Imagine for a moment that a modern corporation was running the farm.

How many managers would have their staff out there ploughing in the snow ‘because it's what farmers do’ or even worse, because they want other people to think they're being productive?

I’m sure most people reading this can immediately think of a time when they've been given a job to do that they know shouldn’t be a priority, or even worse doesn’t need to be done. It’s also hard to be fully motivated if you know from experience that the task you’ve been assigned simply won’t work.

Surely any organisation would want to see a return on investment and for their managers to be aware of what would be the most effective use of people’s time. Sadly, it doesn’t always work that way and I shudder to think how many productive hours are wasted throughout the country each day in order for people to either cover their backs, or hide the fact that they don’t really understand key parts of their business.

There’s a flip side to this though. If the farmer is asked to go and plough the field in the snow but simply refuses, or reacts very negatively to the instruction, they won’t look good. The person instructing them would probably have no idea why they feel that way as well.

They're also unlikely to be impressed if the farmer enthusiastically goes about his business, but then informs them afterwards that it was a complete waste of time and was never going to work.

You're probably wondering where this is all going and it’s simple, if you’re given an instruction you feel is wrong you probably need to speak up.

If the farmer explains very clearly and professionally why ploughing the field in the snow is such a bad idea, and why doing it in the spring would be so much better, they could save everyone a lot of problems. Like a lot of the ideas discussed in this blog, this could be your chance to lead by example.

Be careful though, as the manager may have a very good reason for giving the instruction. Sometimes, it’s not always possible to explain plans and strategies in details, so it’s a good idea to always be aware that what you’ve been asked to do could be part of a ‘bigger picture’.

It probably won’t hurt to make your concerns known, but once it’s clear they're understood it’s usually time to get on with it.

I hope this is useful and it gives you something to think about regardless of whether you’re the farmer or the one giving the instruction. I genuinely believe that it’s up to us to start ‘making ripples on the pond’ wherever we can, and I hope you're in a position to do this soon.