One important skill for the 2020s will be our ability to take consistent small steps, Nigel Collin explains.
As we move into the year and decade ahead what will set us apart will be our ability to consistently get things done, be agile and iron out the peaks and troughs as we go. Interestingly, an example of how to do this can be found in England during the 1800s.
Back in the good old days of the industrial revolution in England, something extraordinary was happening that has become a catchcry for me and my team. It’s more than that—it’s a philosophy and process. ‘Keep the Barges Coming’.
Let me quickly set the scene. In England, as in many parts of Europe, there has been a network of water canals, (much like a road network) which have been there since medieval times. In the 1800s these allowed farmers, manufacturers and businesses to move goods from the coast to their villages and workshops inland, and back again.
The all or nothing approach of the past
Imagine if you were an EA back then and oversaw one of these facilities. The problem was how to get a consistent supply of raw materials to keep you and your workers productive. Although the canal system had been around for hundreds of years it was far from perfect.
When a ship full of materials arrived on the coast the temptation was to send all of it at once up the canal to your factory inland. You were then inundated with supplies all at once and your workers were inundated with the pressure to process it all. Result being ‘everything at once overwhelm’. And then another major issue reared its head because once all the supplies had been used there was nothing to process until the next shipment which could be months away. ‘Massive downtime’.
The consistent small steps approach of the future
The solution was to stagger the supply of materials over a period of time. Heading up the canal, rather than everything at once. Small consistent steps. With a bit of planning you would keep a consistent flow of small barges heading inland so when they arrived, they were more easily handled on-site and when supplies started to dwindle the next barge would arrive. Reduced downtime, reduced stress, and better productivity.
It was a much better decision to keep the barges coming than do everything at once.
“It’s consistent small steps that gets things done, not just daily but over time.”
It’s a great analogy for an EA to adopt because smart and successful people approach their work and their careers this way. One barge at a time. They understand its consistent small steps that get things done, not just daily but over time. It smooths out the peaks and troughs, allows you to stop and deal with a crisis or last-minute request and improves productivity.
Three steps of barge sending
Whether it’s project management, time management, people management or career management, the way to do this is three-fold.
- Be super clear about what it is you are trying to achieve. You need to know where to send the barges.
- Know what needs to be done and by when. You need to know what barge to send and when to send it.
- Be consistent. Even if you trip up every so often and get it wrong the very process of continually taking action, step by step, inch by inch, will get you there. Just keep the barges coming.
For me ‘keeping the barges coming’ is a reminder that as we move into the 2020s we just need to keep taking small consistent steps and keep the barges coming.
See Nigel at the 2020 Brisbane Executive PA Summit
If you’d like to meet Nigel Collin and see his presentation, apply to attend the 2020 Brisbane Executive PA Summit. This free one-day event is designed for busy EAs and is jam-packed with professional development seminars, tailored meetings and networking opportunities. Positions are filling up quickly, so apply today. The size and numbers of these events are purposefully limited.
Nigel Collin is a change and leadership expert helping people and organisations make change happen through small consistent steps. He is author of ‘Game of Inches’, an Internationally recognised keynote speaker and executive coach. www.nigelcollin.com.au