5 Minutes with a Farmer

“We have declared war on work as a society…it is a civil war…a cold war.” – Mike Rowe from “Dirty Jobs”

Mike Rowe had it right when we said we are ”waging a war on work.“  It seems as if more and more, people avoid rolling up their sleeves and getting dirty.  Many would rather talk about what is wrong with their jobs and their companies rather than jumping in and doing something about it.  As the old saying goes, “Some people stop looking for work as soon as they find a job.”

In a recent talk, Mike discussed the diversity of jobs he has attempted over the course of 200 shows on the Discovery Channel.  He gave an example of a sheep herder who taught him a valuable lesson about the difference between “talkers and doers.”  In his words, all the self proclaimed expert groups (humane society, PETA, and others) who had propagated a vision of what ”humane“ castration meant, had likely never spent 5 minutes with an actual farmer viewing the process and seeing what actually was humane.  What on the surface seemed barbaric, was actually the best option for the sheep and the quickest solution to the problem.

I think his example of the difference between people who are self-proclamed experts and those who have gained expertise through experience, is applicable to what I have seen with leaders tasked with implementing change and driving business results.  We have inadvertently created a professional class of highly intelligent ”change agents“ who spent more time collecting information on processes and theorizing about the best way to effect change, rather than actually rolling up their sleeves and changing something.  5 minutes with the farmer would do them  a world of good.  Don’t debate, don’t discuss, don’t theorize…grab the knife, get on with the work and be done with it.  By the time you finish discussing your options you could be done with the herd.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was a perfect change process.  Once you realize that there is no silver bullet and that driving change is about taking action, experimenting, gaining and keeping momentum, making mistakes, and taking one step forward and three steps back, then we can get back to the business of “doing the work” and seeing the results.


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