On Tuesday night I went roller blading with a skating group I have just rejoined as I had been told Tuesdays was an easy skate. Unfortunately most of the people on the skate were training for a long road skate, and so decided to make the evening an hour and half of hill work. 13 miles later and totally exhausted I skated up to my car which had my bike rack attached to the trunk. I opened the trunk, sat down, took off my skates and pads, stood up and closed the trunk. The rack hit me in the head and left a mark.
As I licked the wounds to my ego, I thought about what had made me close the trunk standing where I was, while the rack was attached and I knew it was there. Basically tiredness. We read about many accidents occur when people are tired and not focused on what is around them rather than what is right in front of them.
Reflecting on this I thought of what I see around me in the corporate world today. I meet so many CEO and corporate employees at all levels who are working flat out to keep up with the work load they have. This is a result of many companies laying off people and distributed the work load in order to increase the bottom line.
All the people are working diligently but when you talk to them they tell you they are tired and overwhelmed. Just the right condition to close the trunk on yourself. My concern is what happens when the unexpected happens. Will they see it coming and prepared, or will it be a huge surprise and when it does hit will they know how to deal with it or will it just overwhelm them.
Things work and we can go flat out, heads down, when we our environment is in a steady state; however, the world doesn't seem to follow or allow for steady state conditions for any long periods of town. The change often starts and grows and is not noticed until it is too late, or disruption suddenly occurs. When it does, if you are not prepared and able to respond properly the damage to your organization can be huge - you can lose your competitiveness, profit margins or overall business.
Thus, while waste is bad and we all want organizations to be lean, make sure that you and your people aren't pushed to the point they are never lifting their heads from the hamster wheel to look at the environment around them and aren't so tired they can't respond if the unexpected occurs. The damage that will result if they are will way exceed the benefits you thought you were realizing by keeping costs low. You definitely don't want to let the competition or environment hit you in the face.