Moving Boulders

The boulder was huge. By all estimates, it weighed at least a ton.

The boulder was huge.  By all estimates, it weighed at least a ton.  It had rolled down the mountain and was blocking the main road into town.  Various city departments sent their top managers out to assess the situation.  All came back with the same assessment:  the boulder was huge, and there was no way their department could move it off the road.   

The road department recommended that they build a new road to go around the boulder.  Given the urgency of the situation, that was seen as the best option.  They worked around the clock to build the new road.  Within four weeks, they had successfully rerouted the road around the boulder.  The road department was hailed for their work and sacrifice in helping the city avert the crisis brought about by the boulder.     

Success?  Not really.

Sure, the city attacked the problem with its best minds.  They came up with a novel approach to solving the problem.  The road department employees put in a heroic effort to re-open the vital artery into the city.

But, something was missing (other than jackhammers and tractors).  In this case, the most vital ingredients to problem solving were missing from the story.  Those ingredients are trust and teamwork.

Each manager sought a solution from within the artificial boundaries of their own department, their own experience.  Their assessments were correct, from their limited perspectives.  None had the resources to move the boulder.  Each fell victim to, and tacitly supported, a culture that ignores (or avoids) cross-departmental teamwork.

Imagine what would have happened if even two of the departments had trusted each other.  Imagine if they found a way to pool their resources and ideas.  The power of teamwork lies not in having more hands to do the work, but in broadening the array of available solutions.

How does your organization deal with boulders blocking the road?  What are you doing to change it?

Author: Bob Dailey

Born and raised in Southern California. Graduated from (and met my future wife at) Cal Poly Pomona, in 1988. Married to Janet for almost 35 years. Father of two: Julianne and Jennifer. Grandfather of 7. Held many positions in small, medium, and large companies. Trail runner, competitive stair climber, backpacker, camper, off-roader, world traveler, sometimes writer.

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