After Don Meadows’ fine editorial in the last issue of PaperMoney
, I approach this assignment with more than a little trepidation. Great job on the Starbucks cup, Don!
I am going to be a bit more esoteric in my thoughts here. During the last weekend of July, we trekked back to my childhood home area for my 40th high school reunion. Since we had not had a 30th reunion, it has been 20 years since I have seen these people. One of the striking things from this encounter is how certain expressions, gestures, and so forth came streaming back as I talked to old friends. In other words, these folks had many of the same actions and attitudes they had long ago. It is hard to change.
Yet, I talk about our need to change in the pulp and paper industry all the time. In fact, I think I was talking about this long before one of our famous presidential politicians started using the word “change” this past winter. For it is my belief if we don’t change, we will die as an industry. However, my reunion experience jolted into reality the fact that we can talk about change, but it is so, so hard to implement.
First, you have to want to change. This is a personal decision and takes considerable fortitude to accept as an approach to life. Yet, it can be quite satisfying and not nearly as risky as it might first appear. People seldom lose their jobs over pushing for moderate change, and often, if successful, they are rewarded with a promotion.
Then, of course, comes the question of what to change. This depends on your position and responsibilities to some degree. However, I have never seen one action fail, no matter what your responsibilities. This action is simplification. Almost all activities can be simplified. The general trend is to complicate matters, resulting in the addition of little tasks and creating, in the long run, large bureaucratic operations. In reality, most things need not be done at all.
Simplification comes with resistance, of course. For if you simplify enough, you eliminate people’s positions, an activity which offends many. Yet it needs to be done if you are to be competitive. So, change, please. And start with simplification — you will never run out of opportunities here.