Today for me is about fixing life’s problems. I heard a speaker years ago talk about a situation by the river. A person sees a baby floating down the river and jumps in to retrieve the baby. Then another baby and another … soon a bunch of babies are floating down the river and people are helping get them out. They are dealing with the problem at hand. The wise one in the group suggests that they go up river to figure out why so many babies are floating down the river and fix the problem. A huge controversy erupted in the village. One group argued that every possible hand was needed to save the babies since they were barely keeping up with the current flow. The other group argued that if they found out how those babies were getting into the water further upstream, they could repair the situation up there that would save all the babies and eliminate the need for those costly rescue operations downstream. “Don’t you see,” cried some, “if we find out how they’re getting in the river, we can stop the problem and no babies will drown? By going upstream we can eliminate the cause of the problem!” “But it’s too risky,” said the village elders. “It might fail. It’s not for us to change the system.”
“Oh, yes it is,” I would tell the village elders. When I was in school years ago* there wasn’t an emphasis on hand washing. At all. Kids were constantly sick. Now? Hand washing and proper hygiene reduces the amount of sickness in the schools. Studies have shown a direct correlation (up the river thinking). As we continue to go up river to solve problems – we can more effectively deal with bigger issues. We are doing a lot of LEAN initiatives at the hospital. Essentially, the LEAN group is taking problems or situations and examining the “why” behind why we do what we do.
This is my challenge to you this week. Examine your life and what you do. Take it one step further and reflect on the “why you do what you do.” A story I’ve told is about the mom who always cut the ends off of her hams before cooking them. Her daughter asks why. Mom says, “Because that’s how my mom did it.” Daughter asks Grandma why and Grandma says, “Because that’s how my mom did it.” So daughter asks Great-Grandma why and she says “Because my roaster pan was too short for the whole ham.” The daughter is practicing up the river thinking.
*We had no snow days or early outs and I had to walk two miles uphill both ways … in the snow to get there.
Steve Simonin, CEO & President