On the farm it’s all about processes and helping each other to cope with whirling vortexes. A whirling vortex is something unexpected that happens. Whirling vortexes are unexpected and tend to strike several at a time. Let’s consider a simple task. The cows need to be fed hay and grain at the East Barn. The barn holds hay, but grain has to be brought in from the grain elevator. The grain must be sacked and ready to go to the barn. A pickup is needed to haul the grain. That shouldn’t be too hard now, should it?
You get to where the pickup is supposed to be, and you find the farm hand has taken the pickup to pick rocks out of the field. You take a 4 wheeler out to the field looking for the pickup. You find the pickup, hooray! Unfortunately, the farm hand has a flat tire, thanks to an old rusty pitchfork. Yes, this actually happens. Naturally, the spare is flat. So you give him a ride back to the shop with the 4-wheeler to air up the spare. Now you’re in a hurry to finish with the pickup so you can get back to the cows. When returning to the pickup, you leave the gate open into the field. As you both finish mounting the spare, you notice cows wandering towards you through the open gate. So together you use the pickup and the 4 wheeler to herd the cows back through the gate to where they belong. Then you take the pickup, sack and load the grain, and drive to the East Barn. You get stuck in the East Barn lot, at which point you have to go get a tractor, a helper, and a chain to pull out the pickup. Finally the cows stop bawling, eat their fill, and the farm hand gets the pickup back.
In working on the farm, you start out to do something that at first glance appears to be simple, but because of these “whirling vortexes”, it’s late afternoon before the cows have been fed. Thinking back on it, you realize that the rocks got picked, you worked together to solve problems, and you learned the importance, again, of closing gates. In the workplace, there are also times when it feels like you’re running flat out and just spinning your wheels (you just don’t have cows, so it’s not nearly so bad).
When you consider your workplace, in light of the farm, here are four truths:
- A critical part of being involved on a team is being willing to set down what you are trying to get done to help your co-workers work more productively.
- The more complex the process, the more likely it is to not happen on time or to do what you think it will do. This is especially true if cows are involved.
- If you are making use of shared equipment, clearly communicate your plans in advance.
- Don’t be discouraged if you do not accomplish what you were intending to get done in a day.
This post was inspired by my childhood on the farm as well as the short story “Sequences” in the book, The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw by Patrick McManus.
By Brian Stillman
Director of Administrative Computing
Northwest Nazarene University
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