Point to Ponder:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build… - Ecclesiastes 3, New International Version (NIV)
Storyline: by Jim and Leigh Mulready (repeat from January 2012)
My neighbor surveyed his precious lawn, the lawn he had lavished hard work on since he bought his home. His labor and attention to detail had provided him with a beautiful, flawless expanse of grass for many years, and it was a great source of pride for him, but now the unthinkable had happened. His yard had been invaded by ugly weeds. He despised the newcomers and swore vengeance upon them. For this task, he did his research and identified the best, most experienced and most knowledgeable garden expert in the entire area.
The expert performed a full analysis: he noted the soil and the climate, the sun exposure and watering cycle, the type and condition of the grass, the type and condition of the weeds, how deep their roots went, how dense they were in the lawn, etc. In short, after a full day of observation, measurement, and research, he was able to provide the homeowner with a full Problem Description. The owner listened intently, looking forward to the imminent destruction of the trespassers.
“Now, I just need to know what you want me to do,” said the expert. “Should I kill the weeds, or should I grow the grass?”
“What?” said my neighbor, puzzled. “What kind of choice is that?”
“Well, I can come in here with some chemicals and kill the weeds,” was the reply. “They’ll be dead in no time. Of course, that will weaken the grass a bit too. It will take awhile to recover, and during that time it will be more susceptible to other types of weeds and diseases. It will take a lot of extra effort to get it back to where it was before the weeds moved in.
“Or, I can grow the grass. I can simulate the lawn to greater health, and over time it will get so strong it will simply crowd the weeds out and they’ll be gone. That will certainly take longer than the chemicals would to get rid of the weeds, but you’ll have a much healthier lawn when I’m done, and it will certainly be more resistant to other problems.
“So, what do you want me to do,” he concluded, “kill the weeds, or grow the grass?”
Engineers, through training and habit, spend most of their time fixing problems (killing the weeds); indeed for many that’s where the satisfaction of the job is: “I’m a problem solver.” But how many of them spend time thinking about how to grow the grass (improve the processes and systems)? If you’re a manager, do you ask your people to spend part of their time growing the grass, or are you happiest when they’re busy killing the weeds because the results are so quick and easy to advertise? Excellence only comes through patient improvement over the long term.