Thinking clearly

I recently read the book of "My Property World" by Bob Jones. It was interesting to see that he had a whole chapter on Thinking Clearly, and it makes good reading for any New Zealander in terms of some of his philosophies.

Despite what you might say about Bob Jones, he has been extraordinarily successful. He is very honest, and is also a very clear thinker.

In one of his chapters, he speaks of wanting to rent a camel to put in the foyer of his building just to see if any of his staff noticed it. He thought that some of his staff may actually walk over it, and not even see it.

It is an interesting analogy of course, and I know when I had my own dairy farm and employed staff, that they often did not see things or think about what they were doing.

In his chapter, Bob goes on to talk about how people don't actually think, they just do what they are told to do. In agriculture, we need to encourage thinking on the farm by our team.

So how might you encourage thinking on your farm? Instead of telling someone how to do a task, tell them what needs to be done, and then ask them how they might approach it.

You may be surprised at the range of answers, but you need to get them thinking, and then mould their thinking to your way of doing things.

If they come to you with problems all the time, ask them to think of 3 possible solutions. Discuss those solutions with them, and then ask them to select the best option. Do that a few times, and you may find you have trained them to think up a solution for themselves. Rather than you having to solve their problems, they are solving your problems.

People who can solve problems, are way ahead of people who can just do manual tasks.

Look at your own farming business, and think about how you might do things better. Would a circular race system make your farming easier, and stock movements better?

Could you use the new timer gates to let the cows come up the race on their own in the morning and the evening, rather than having to go and get them and push them up the race on a hot afternoon in the sun? How would it be if you got up in the morning to find all the cows at the cowshed waiting to be milked?

Under this system, you do however need a circular race, so that you can scoot down the other race, around behind the cows that have not found their way to the shed.

Could you do fewer trips up and down the farm when doing all those repair jobs? Would a covered trailer with everything on it i.e. tools, pipe wrenches, alkathene, wire strainers etc. be a help?

Could it be a help to carry a full range of medical requirements for the cows on the bikes in the spring, so you do not have to dash back to the cowshed when you find a cow down?

Could you modify the access and egress around the cowshed to make it easier for both man and stock flow? Often you will find a strainer post or a steel post in the wrong place, which bangs the cows on the hips and stops cow flow. You need to think about how you could do it better.

Could there be a better ownership or debt structure? Often clients say to me "I never thought of that". If you are unclear on this area, you need to employ professional people to help you sort out your debt structure or your ownership structure so that you are more comfortable. Remember, there is no dumb questions and no dumb answers. A good professional will encourage you to understand it and be patient until you do understand the issues at hand.

And what of your children? Do you just tell them what to do, and spend no focused time with them? Or could you ask them to solve their problems? Ask them for 3 solutions, and get them to select the best one.

You need to encourage thinking in your children. Discuss the downstream effects of decisions that they make now, and get them to think about what those results are likely to cause.

In summary farming, and life for that matter, is all consuming with little time to think. Take time to do some thinking clearly, and encourage it in your team, particularly in your children. As Henry Ford said "a man who can store fact is no use to me, find me a man who can think".


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