Imagine if you had so much field work that you couldn’t waste time on stopping the tractor to refuel. It wouldn’t be very effective, would it? Well, it’s the same thing for you!
For the past week, I’ve been on a conference marathon with back-to-back attendance of the CAPÉ fall conference and the annual ACORN conference. I have had the pleasure of meeting lots of farmers and have amazing conversations. I love how passionate, dedicated, creative, and skillful you all are! But…we are not super-human! Just like our machines, we also need maintaining.
If you’re feeling exhausted, tired, or discouraged then you are not alone.
You are not alone!
Before diving right into the winter-planning work or to your off-farm job, please, take some time to re-energize your mind, body, and soul. A week, a day, a half day –all to yourself, without your cell phone, away from the farm. You’ll be amazed at what a great investment this is. Take a step back for a little while and come back with a clearer, more focused, and more spacious mind spirit. You’ll be surprised how something so seemingly simple can be so powerful.
What would it be like to recharge?
What is one small sweet step that you could take this week that would just feel so great?
Thanks to the first 4 pillars, we now have: a clear vision; identified our priorities; developed our plans; and implemented our systems. Now, it’s time to play ball!
Pillar 5 is all about consistency.
Small sweet actions taken consistently will always outperform erratic blitzes of activity followed by periods of inaction.
The question is: how do we create a farm culture that supports each member of the team to consistently play full-out and where everyone participates in keeping the farm on track to achieve the goals as planned.
Pillar 5 addresses this with two elements: Monitoring, and Support.
Monitoring… a.k.a. Keeping Score
Goals, plans, and budgets are not mere whims that we create in the winter and forget about till next year. They serve as a road map to keep us on track to achieve our goals. For this to occur, we actually need to check the map. Regularly.
This means keeping the bookkeeping up to date (minimally monthly) and comparing the current actual situation to the forecasts. It is amazing how many actions are possible to help keep the budget on track…This is attainable only if you know precisely where you’re at each month. Here is a tool that I used on my farm to visually know how each of my income and expense accounts was doing at any moment.
This principle applies to all our farm goals, not only to the financial objectives. The key is to check in regularly to compare your goals with the results you are actually getting. How often are you actually practicing the guitar? How present are you for your family? Are you taking one or two days of rest and rejuvenation each week? Whatever your goal is, it is critical that you check in with yourself. This is much easier if you have a clear, measurable goal. The 4DX system is a great example of this approach.
No person is an Island! We are made to be social creatures who thrive on love and caring. There are times when our strong, independent natures are very useful to us as farmers and entrepreneurs. However, when this nature dominates the way we run our farm, we end up taking on so many roles and responsibilities that we no longer focus our time on what is important. So much so that our passion turns into work and we no longer have fun!
What would it be like to ask for support? What would it be like to be part of a network of mutual support?
Very often, we already have the networks available to us. We just need to learn to offer, ask for, and accept support. This support can be in the form of our local and regional community of farmers, our friends and families, our farm employees, and professional services such as coaching or mastermind and coaching groups.
Our initial inkling is that ‘Support is for the weak.’ The old vision of a strong leader is someone who is independent, mentally and physically powerful and is able to make all the right decisions on their own. The new vision of a strong leader is one who surrounds themselves with all the best advisors, who is mentally and physically flexible, agile, and resilient, and who makes the best decisions by inspiring and bringing out the best in those around him or her.
Ultimately, support is out recognizing that we are not alone. It’s about reaching out and connecting with those in our networks. It’s about asking for help. It’s about generously being there for others. It’s about being part of something greater than ourselves
Is there someone in your network you’d like to connect with this week?
‘Vulnerability is allowing the winds of life to blow freely over your soul’ – Maria Nemith
In the meanwhile, I thought it might be useful for me to write a short summary of the 4DX system. I will focus primarily on how it can be of service in the context of a small-scale organic vegetable farm.
Breaking out of the whirlwind
We’ve all been there. During the winter we have these great intentions of what we want to improve on our farm. The challenge is that these intentions get blown away by the busy whirlwind of urgent tasks.
4DX is a system for being able to make important changes IN ADDITION to the baseline demands of the whirlwind of urgent farming tasks.
4DX is a system to give ownership of the goals to the farm’s crew and support them to feel what it’s like to be part of a winning team playing towards a clear and meaningful goal.
4DX is a system designed to be implemented with and by your team… not to be imposed top down. It is paramount that your team be involved in developing the goals and designing the visual tools that will be used.
Less is More
Discipline 1: Focus on the Wildly Important
When it comes to achieving important goals above and beyond the basic operation of the farm, the key is to focus your energy on one maybe two Wildly Important Goals (WIG). Imagine trying to pierce a piece of paper with all 5 fingers at once… not very effective…. now try with just one finger. Boom! Less is more. Imagine the sun’s rays… they only ignite a fire when they are focused by a magnifying glass on a single point. Are you ready to light your goals on fire!?!
The first step is the craft one or max two WIGs:
If everything else at the farm remained at the current level of performance….
What is one change that would have the greatest impact in terms of bringing your vision into reality?
What is one change that would have the greatest impact on your quality of life?
The WIG is phased as a measurable action with a set date:
Increase farm revenue from 300 000$ to 350 000$ by December 31, 2019.
Reduce work hours from 70 to 50 hours per week by August 15, 2019.
Increase farmers market sales from 45 000$ to 60 000$ per year by November 1, 2019.
As Peter Drucker said, we can’t manage what we don’t measure.
There are two types of measurements we can make:
Lag measures are things that by the time we measure them, we can no longer influence them. Lag measures are the results that we want to create (ie Profit, sales, leisure time, etc) WIGs are lag measures
Lead measures are things that when we measure them, we can still impact the outcome. Lead measures are the means we have of influencing the outcomes.
Let’s take the example of the farmers market.
The lag measure would be that we want to sell 60 000$ per year at the farmers market. (WIG: Increase farmers market sales from 45 000$ to 60 000$ by November 1st 2019) While we can measure sales, there is no way we can directly act on them. You can’t force people to give you their money (legally).
Lead measures for farmers market sales include making at least 2 product suggestions to clients, keeping the tables fully stocked and beautiful (to measure this, you could use a chart of presentation criteria and aim to score above 90% at key times), and reducing client check out wait time to 2 minutes.
The key is to shift our attention from trying to push directly on the boulder and actually focus on pushing on the lever. Work smarter, not harder!
TIME TO BRAINSTORM: It’s time to identify 2-3 lead measures to focus on that will move you towards achieving your Wildly Important Goal.
Make it a game worth winning: Keep score!
Discipline 3: Keep a compelling scoreboard.
People play differently when they are keeping score. The challenge is that so often in the height of the growing season, we are juggling so many balls that it’s hard to know where we’re at in terms of our larger goals.
The scoreboard is just the tool for this!
The scoreboard is a visual representation of the WIG and the 2-3 lead measures the team has identified. Anyone needs to be able to look at it for 5 seconds and know exactly whether the team is winning or losing. It needs to be centrally located and visible.
It will become the centerpiece of your weekly WIG sessions. It will become the glue that binds your team.
One more nuance that is highlighted by the authors of 4DX… People play differently when they are keeping score. Your team must be empowered to keep score, fill out the scoreboard, and own the results! This is not just another tool to pressure your crew… this is their scoreboard
One for all and all for one
Discipline 4: Create a cadence of accountability.
This is where the work actually gets started! The key to success is consistently taking small sweet steps towards your goal.
The glue that holds this whole 4DX system together is the weekly WIG sessions.
WIG sessions are highly structured, efficient 20-minute sessions held each week. The sole purpose of this meeting is to keep the team focused on the WIG and make it possible to chip away at the WIG while still accomplishing everything that needs to get done in the regular whirlwind of farm activities.
Here is the format for the meeting:
Check in on last weeks commitments.
Look at the state of the scoreboard.
Make a commitment for the coming week.
Each week, members of the team make personal commitments regarding what they will do this week to move the scoreboard towards a victory. This can be an action they take, or this can be some way they are willing to support a team member by clearing the way for them to advance. The following week everyone reports back on their commitment. Team members are accountable to the whole team, not just to the leader.
WIG Session Rules
Do not let whirlwind topics encroach into the WIG session. The ONLY topics at the WIG session are limited to:
‘How do we move the scoreboard forward?’
How do we meet out lead measure goals?
Is the lag measure responding as expected?
If needed, hold a regular planning meeting at a different time
(it can be right after the WIG session) to discuss the farm activities for the
The WIG sessions are non-negotiable. Meaning that it is paramount that you hold them every week, both to keep on track towards your goal and to send the clear message to your team that this is highly important for the success of the farm, and the farm’s ability to create meaningful and satisfying employment for them.
Looking forward to hearing your feedback and experiences implementing this on your farm!
Go make a ruckus!
*Please note that all links to Amazon are ‘affiliate links’ where I earn between 4-10% of the sale depending on the product. Of course, this does not influence which products I mention… I just figured that if I was going to be linking to them anyways, I might as well generate some income!
Have you ever had great intentions but have failed to follow through? Or perhaps you are like me and get very excited about making great improvements, but you lose interest and motivation after a couple of weeks? Do you find yourself doing work that is either redundant or that could have been avoided with the right preemptive actions?
Using the first 3 pillars, you know clearly what outcomes you want to produce, you’ve planned out how to get there, and you’ve made the decision to focus on the actions that get the greatest bang for your buck… now what!?
The key lies in the consistency with which we take action. In this context, farm production systems serve 3 outcomes:
To support us to take action with greater ease by reducing reliance on ‘willpower’ and memory;
To ensure that each action or task works synergistically with the other components of the farm thus reducing overall work;
To allow us to effectively delegate to our employees and thus reduce the degree to which you are the bottleneck in your farm operation and free you up for focusing on your unique abilities, for working less, and living the lifestyle you would love to live.
What is a system?
A complex system is a self-perpetuating arrangement of interconnected parts that form a unified whole…” (The Personal MBA) and work to achieve a common outcome.
In the context of a small-scale organic vegetable farm, we could literally define dozens of systems. However, there are the 5 essential systems that must be in place:
Information Flow System
Soil Management System
Weed Management System
Harvest and Post-harvest System
Designing and optimizing farm systems:
Over the course of the fall and winter, we will be looking in depth at each system with the goal of identifying and implementing the key adjustments to support you in achieving your lifestyle goals for 2019.
To start with, here are some seeds I would like to plant in your brain for your consideration
What is the desired outcome of each system?
What are the key elements of each system?
Map out the system: How do materials and efforts flow through the system? (Both conceptually and physically. Pay particular attention to where the bottlenecks or weak links are.
What synergies exist between systems? For example, great weed control greatly increases the efficiency of harvest.
Are the processes and procedures clearly communicated in writing accessible to the whole crew?