How To Achieve Harmony And Balance At Your Company

Things to think about the next time you're in line for the ski lift

Why Can't This Line Go Any Faster?

Photo credit: Scott Limbird

Spring break is upon us and you’re headed to the mountains for some epic pow pow. You may not be the only one with this same idea. In fact, there are definitely a boatload of skiers just waiting to get on the slopes. Here’s one thing to ponder while you’re in line for the ski lift.

Why can’t the lift go any faster?

Let’s walk through an example:

  • Think about the people in line as various work efforts. Each person is a little chunk of work
  • Think about the actual ski lift itself as your company processes
  • Think about the ski lift chairs as your people. These are the folks doing the work
  • Guess who’s pushing all the chunks of work toward the ski lift? That’s right – sometimes you can’t see them but it’s executives, it’s the board of directors, it’s your customers, it’s anything environmental such as a down economy or a shift in regulatory law, and it’s your competitors. It’s all of it. It’s all these factors and more that apply pressure to the work efforts to get on the ski lift.

Here’s the good news. Yes, the lift can go faster. Here’s the catch. There’s a right way and a wrong way to adjust the speed of the ski lift.

Here’s the wrong way:

  • Just turn the dial on the ski lift to make it go faster. Faster is better, right?
    • It’s a short-term approach because you’ll get more output, meaning more chunks of work will make it to the top, however, there’s a great cost
      • Some of the chairs become overburdened and begin to break down
      • There are more accidents when loading the work onto the ski lift
      • There are even some accidents where work falls off the ski lift before it makes it to the top
      • In the worst cases, sometimes the actual ski lift chairs disengage and fall down. They give up from overwork
      • I’ve even seen some work efforts try to skip the line and hang on from the bottom of a chair that already has a work effort in it

Here’s the right way

  • Build a new ski lift that can handle faster speeds
    • You build in efficiency, effectiveness, quality, and productivity into the very mechanics of the new ski lift.
    • This takes commitment, time, planning, and critical thinking but in the end it’s better than the old ski lift that you just turned the dial on.
    • You may find that you can reuse a lot of the chairs but the ones that fell down definitely need to be replaced
      • Training your people can help patch up most of the chairs

What the heck?

Now that you’ve built a new ski lift that’s faster and better, why on earth are there still lines? Are you truly back to where you started? No, probably not. You’ve probably experienced some great wins with your new ski lift but you know you can do better to get more work efforts to the top of the slope. What to do now?

Time to look at the work itself. Pushing more and more work efforts toward the ski lift won’t help get them to the top of the mountain any faster. Try this instead:

  • Push fewer work efforts toward the ski lift
    • Your executives have the ability and self-restraint to do this, they just don’t show it all the time. This is a brutal exercise of the game called “No.”
      • Make sure the work efforts that do make it to the ski lift are the right work efforts
      • They must be the strategic efforts that will help your company truly achieve its vision, its true north
    • Why?
      • I don’t know how else to say it . . . if you’ve got too much going on, you lose focus and quality suffers. You’re not going to achieve your “A” game showing up with tattered ski lift chairs. These are universal truths.

There’s not an easy answer. Sometimes it’s all about finding the balance between your people and processes. Other times, it’s truly about the work.


I’d love to hear from you about other ways you’ve been able to achieve more throughput from your resources without directly turning up the speed on the ski lift.