On the way to the CMOE office this morning, I watched a young man maneuver his truck in and out of three lanes of traffic, trying to position himself to be first in line at the next stop light. Actually, he was trying to make it through the intersection before the light turned red, but he didn’t quite make it. I happened to be stopped next to him or just a couple of cars behind him at the next several intersections. I could visibly see his frustration by the way his jaw tighten and his hands clenched his steering wheel. At the next red light, he was holding his head with one hand and pounded his steering wheel a couple of times with the other. Obviously he was late for something or trying to get somewhere fast.
The point of this story is quite simple; when people don’t practice “everyday strategy”, stress levels rise and they often take erroneous risks. Chances are that when frustration takes over, an argumentative attitude is the result. In the work environment, the recipients of this destructive attitude are most often family members or coworkers, worse yet clients and employers.
What is Everyday Strategy?
“Everyday Strategy” is the habit of thinking and acting more strategically about daily and operational tasks. It means paying attention to the environment and adjusting to obstacles or trends so you might better accomplish your tasks or work towards goals. For example, if the young man I saw driving this morning would have checked traffic reports, or remembered that the road he planned to take this morning was under construction, he might have left earlier, got to his destination on time, and not experienced the frustration that he did.
This concept sounds simple and many people use this approach to their work and life without even realizing they are doing it. The problem is that for many people it has yet to become a conscious effort in the workplace. Senior leaders and managers are thought to be the ones that do all the strategic thinking. Yet, a huge difference could be made for businesses if everyone from the top down approached their work with a strategic mindset. For example, two American Airlines mechanics thought it was strange that they were told to throw away the drill bits they used once they became dull. So, they rigged up some old parts and they built “Thumping Ralph,” which was a machine that sharpened the dull drill bits and saved the company an estimated $300,000.00 annually.
Don’t make “everyday strategy” into something complex or difficult, because it shouldn’t be that way. Simply look around your work area and ask yourself, “What can be improved, discarded, or added to make processes more efficient, less costly, or improve value?” The person who best knows the answers to these types of questions is you, the one who actually does the task every day.