Monday, April 21, 2003

On Dandelions

It was a beautiful Easter Sunday yesterday here in central Indiana USA. After church and before relatives arrived for supper, I wanted to get outside and enjoy the warm sunshine. So, I told my wife that I’d be pleased to pull some of the dandelions spurting forth in our yard. After recovering from the surprise of my offer, she gladly accepted, got me her cool dandelion puller-outer tool and let me get to work.

The work was OK until it hit me that the exercise was a wonderful metaphor for eliminating waste in any process. At that point, the work got downright interesting. What could dandelions teach me about eliminating waste and delivering value? Here are a few points.

  • Some waste is obvious. It has a big yellow flower and says "Hey, over here, pull me out!"
  • Some waste blends in. It matches the surroundings, all green. From a distance, it is unseen. Only by literally walking near it could I detect the different leaves that mark it.
  • If you look for it, you will find it. It was there all along but until I tried to find it, I would not have the chance to get rid of it.
  • Go to the workplace. I can’t get rid of weeds sitting in my living room. I have to go outside and get on my knees.
  • Practice is essential.. I wasn’t all that good when I started. After about 150 pulled dandelions though, I started to get the hang of it.
  • So is a teacher. My wife, an experienced gardener, chuckled slightly as she watched me hack and beat the weeds at first. But, sensing a teachable moment, she showed me just how to plunge the tool into the dirt to get the root. Until I had struggled a bit though, I couldn’t have caught the lesson.
  • Other wastes started to jump out. Though I was looking for dandelions, I discovered thistles and some other weeds I don’t know the name of. Dig, pull. Out they came too.

This is just the start. I’ll share more tomorrow. I hope this is helpful.

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