We love keeping info in our heads but its bad
Farmers are very good at keeping a lot of information inside their heads. But this is not healthy for them or helpful to their team if they work with others. It is also not an effective way of operating a business.
Can’t take time off farm
If everything is in your head, then it makes it very hard to hand over your job or farm business to someone else even for a day. And when you do take a few days off, only to return back to the farm and be confronted with problems, mistakes, poor quality work and so forth, you then say to yourself that you can’t trust anyone and that it’s just impossible to take time off.
But most often the real problem isn’t the poor person trying to make sense of your farm while you are away, it’s that everything is in your head and the verbal communication and instructions given weren’t clear enough and there were most likely no visual documented standards, processes or systems (even a grazing plan on a map for example!) for the person to follow. They may have been lucky to get some scribbled notes in a crumpled and poo’ed on hand book. Unfortunately even for the brightest of people this makes trying to do a job and understand your farm very difficult. Hence why you can’t take time out.
Difficult to train your staff
Most people are visual learners – in other words they need to see something visually (eg a picture) to understand it. There is a reason for the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Verbal instructions get translated differently by every person and therefore are not a reliable form of communication if you want the right result. Plus farmers are not usually the best of communicators by nature. So it is no wonder that when you give someone some instructions you often don’t get what you expected. Further if everything is in your head, most people are not telepathic so it is very hard for them to understand the problem, situation, expectation, priority, schedule and wider goals.
Lean can help – its called visual management
This is why the lean tool visual management is so helpful. It helps every farmer take the information stored in their heads and get it out onto a visual platform so that it is easier to see, understand, control, prioritise, and action.
A better farm business
It provides better clarity and focus on what matters, and it stops the unhealthy clutter in your head which often leads to mistakes, rework, unnecessary and sometimes costly problems, disorganisation and poor communication. (And the end result could be unsatisfactory performance in your business). Having everything in your head is not a sustainable way to operate a business. Give visual management a try – there is even a whole chapter about it in my book The Lean Dairy Farm.