When our company first began learning about lean manufacturing practices, we worked with a talented consultant named Lisa Westberg. As she reviewed each of our core operating systems she would ask, “Is it stable, or are we about to go into a high-speed wobble?”
Excessive speed, frantic motion, and the absence of early warning systems that are powerful enough to stop production are the ingredients that can tip a community (or an entire planet) into chaos.
Does all of this sound familiar?
It should, because it’s what has happened to Planet Earth in the early decades of the twenty-first century. What are the foundational underpinnings of 9/11, the housing market collapse, and the COVID-19 pandemic? The answer: excessive speed and motion. Humans are moving at a pace that is unsustainable in what business researcher Jim Collins defines as “the never-ending pursuit of more.”
How many people can we pack into an airplane? How short can we make the turnaround time at the gate? When speed and capacity take precedence over the quality of an experience, a wobble is sure to follow.
When the COVID-19 pandemic reached Maine, our company eliminated all nonessential activity. In hindsight, I was amazed at how many tasks and trips we were able to do without. When we slowed down, our business performance actually improved.
Humanity needs to pump the brakes, put quality of life first, and reset at a sustainable pace. Less movement increases stability.
We are the cause of the high-speed wobble.