Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to have to work on one of our production lines for the day. Fortunate, because I learned a lot in those few short hours.
It took me a while to get the hang of the work that needed to be done. About an hour’s worth of awkwardness. No speed. And a bit of frustration. Slowly I got the hang of it. There was nothing hard in what needed to be done. I just couldn’t get the footsteps right to gain the rhythm needed to keep the line “humming”.
As the job became more natural to me, I then began to see the little things that could make this job better. The scale that I was using bounced too much. Readings would say one thing and then a few seconds later said something totally different. It wasn’t until much later, that how I oriented a bag on a filling station, made all of the difference between running smoothly or not.
Why I even found that if a small additional piece was available, it could reduce the product waste on the floor. By the end of the day, I gained a deep appreciation for the work that someone has to do every day on this production line.
As the person responsible for the machinery we use and products we sell, it becomes easy to focus on efficiencies, throughput, and results. Without ever clearly understanding what is asked of someone to do. Telling others about the learning curve is different from actually living in one.
By trading places, I learned a lot about the constraints that the other person has to live with. For it is their reality not yours. From far away, things look very different and more limitless. Trading places forces you to take on a perspective that you would never consider until put in this situation.
In some situations, especially work related ones, it is a great way to develop some empathy for the other person that you are either working with or managing. It is a chance to see their obstacles in almost their eyes by doing their work.
The lessons learned go far beyond a production line job. All of us would benefit by trading places with others. Especially with those that we disagree or get frustrated with. Or those more successful or more needy than we are. For we can never truly understand their reality and constraints unless we first trade places for a short time to begin to learn about the many things we never knew or considered.
Making our perspectives much deeper and more helpful in continuing to bring change into the world. Helping make our decisions more objective, rational and most importantly complete for the context of the situation we are trying to impact.
Trading places slows us down for a bit. Saving us time in the long run to complete a project sooner so that we can move on to the next one!