scaling up

Scaling Up

Spring is right around the corner. Which means if you are growing things from seed, you have probably already started your seeds. My little seed tray has 40 slots. But going up to the next container size only fits 18. Two of them fit 36, or a loss of 4 slots.

Scaling up often requires adjustment. Sometimes it results in greater efficiencies. Other times, it results in loss. And sometimes those losses make way for growth to produce more. In scaling, it’s important to understand what adjustments are needed at each stage to get the outcomes you are looking for.

focusing on the details, not the big picture

Focusing on the Details, but Missing the Big Picture

Around the beginning of the year, The New York Times had an article about things to try. One of those things was adult paint by numbers. So, what the heck, I decided to give it a whirl. I haven’t painted in a while and thought it would be a good way to get back into it. Only, it turns out to be much harder and much more detailed.

The kit comes with brushes, a numbered canvas and paint. No instructions. Just pick a brush and match the number on the paint to the canvas. And there are a lot of very small parts to paint. The thing is, if you’ve painted before, you know part of it is learning to mix and blend paints. You learn how to use the brush to create different shapes. And you look at the big picture, not just the little area with the number on it.

The process was a good reminder of the challenges in business today. We give people a minute task to focus on, but they don’t know the big picture. And each piece stands alone rather than blending it in seamlessly to the rest. Without the proper training, the tool is used, but not in a way that it was designed to be used.

As it turns out, taking each piece individually and not being able to use the tools to the full potential of their design is much more time consuming and results in an inferior product.

unintended consequences

The High Cost of New Requirements

The tree trimmers were recently cutting trees away from power lines. It seems that municipal code requires trees to be planted along roadways. And that means planting trees under power lines that need to be trimmed by the utility on a regular basis. A requirement that creates an ongoing downstream problem that has no resolution under current conditions.

These sorts of problems are found in business too. A requirement is established to address one issue. But, in a different department that requirement causes additional work that will continue indefinitely until the original requirement is changed. And oftentimes, the people dealing with the unintended consequence just keep doing the work and don’t question the new requirement. Which adds more cost and work.

mixing good with bad doesn't result in good

Mixing the Good with Bad Doesn’t Result in Good

The water in the stream was brown. An indication that a significant amount of dirt had been washed into the stream or a lot of erosion was occurring during the recent rains. But just a bit downstream, another stream fed in with perfectly clear water, mixing to make the water slightly less brown. Flowing through many little dams along the way down the stream helped, but there was just too much dirt to get cleaned out before it was beyond my line of sight.

Mixing the good in with the bad happens in business too. Sometimes the thinking goes that fixing just a part of a broken system or process will make things better. But when the good stuff gets mixed in, it usually just frustrates the people who are working with the good part, because they have to deal with the bad. And no matter how much new and good processes get added in, they can’t overcome the old stuff until it is removed. The bad is setting the pace and the expectations.

how signs are interpreted leads to very different results

How signs are interpreted leads to very different outcome

The other day, I was exiting a parking lot through a one way exit that was marked with a big do not enter sign from the street. Just feet away to my left was the entrance, marked with a big one way sign. But that didn’t deter the person that was racing straight toward me up the exit driveway. I don’t know if they didn’t see the big signs, or saw them and ignored them because it was a faster route to where they wanted to park.

Big, obvious signs can be found all around businesses. People sometimes miss them because they aren’t paying attention. A problem that can lead to safety issues, mistakes that gum up the works, or mistakes that cause big losses for the company. On the other hand, seeing the signs and ignoring them can come about because there is a better way. The sign may no longer be relevant and it should be addressed by removing it. Or, the sign, or a rule or law, is viewed as obstructing progress and the decision about the consequences needs to be evaluated carefully.

How the signs are interpreted leads to very different outcomes.

weather fronts

Weather Fronts

We are in the middle of a series of weather adventures in the Pacific Northwest. Snow, wind, ice storms. And they are wreaking havoc on the area. For most of the weather adventures, instruments have provided the ability for people to be informed and prepared. Like any tool, it measures what is on the horizon. And the closer the weather gets, the more precise the information.

The same is true in business. There are always a number of conditions on the horizon that need to be monitored. Some things will come to pass and others won’t. The key is to keep an eye on them all, make preparations, and execute on significant opportunities or challenges as they approach.

A lesson from beavers

Beavers have been hard at work building dams. They chewed trees down and collected limbs to create a series of dams along a stream. The dams don’t only create a place for them to live. It also helps the eco system by supporting birds and fish, as well as helping reduce erosion and flooding.

There are seemingly little things that happen in companies too that support the eco system of the company. Finding and encouraging the beavers in your company can help the flow of necessary information while filtering out the stuff that doesn’t need to move forward.



A friend recently brought a cheese and fruit plate to a gathering. But there was something different about this one. The apple slices had pink flesh. I’d never seen that before, and neither had the other attendees. Apple peels come in many colors…red, pink, green, yellow, etc. But, I had assumed that the flesh was generally close to the same color in all apples because I hadn’t seen anything different before.

People make assumptions all the time based on what they’ve seen or know. And in the business world, that can be a challenge if other perspectives aren’t brought in to help with innovation and growth. Or even just running the day to day better. Because assumptions can lead to the place if not challenged.

trying new things

Trying new things

I had an epic fail. At least my dog thought so. And in this case, it is her opinion that matters. She loves her treat time and I thought it would be fun to try something new. Did I get it wrong! She either picked the new treats out of her food bowl and spit them out on the floor, or ate everything in the bowl except the new treats depending on her mood.

Moving ahead and making progress requires trying new things. But here’s the thing: it won’t always work. And knowing why the failure happened will provide valuable information to know what to do next. Knowing what not to do is just as valuable as knowing what to do.