Room To Grow

The room was a mess.

Jackets, hats, mismatched shoes, soccer bags, baseball bags, basketballs and a random collection of junk spilled out of the laundry/mud-room and into the hall--completely blocking the back door and cutting off the only access to the garage.

No matter how much I picked up, no matter how much I pleaded, yelled, demanded and punished the kids, the net result was always the same--the room was a mess. I was a mess.

Something had to change.

My wife and I tried to step back from the problem and look at it logically. Why didn’t the kids put their stuff away?

Immediately, we jumped to the same conclusion--our kids were lazy. They didn’t care if they had to pick their stuff off the floor each day. They didn’t care if it took them longer to get ready for school because they had to hunt down a lost shoe.

Then my wife had a breakthrough. She noted how our oldest daughter (a self-described neat-freak), was as problematic as the other kids. Instantly, the problem was solved.

It wasn’t that our kids were lazy. The problem was that we had set them up to fail:

· They had too much stuff.

· They were trying to manage four seasons’ worth of clothes.

· They didn’t have adequate space to manage even one season of clothes/equipment.

· They hadn’t been given any training on how to manage their stuff.

I found the solution to our aggravating problem was actually quite simple--and interestingly, many of these same solutions show up one way or another in this month’s issue.

· I took everything out of the room and painted it a cheery color--something they would hopefully want to keep looking neat and clean. (You’ll find a similar idea in “Tagging Graffiti,” page 22.)

· I built each kid an open-faced locker and put his/her name on it. Using tidbits and ideas similar to the ones presented in “Bearing the Essentials” on page 18, I made sure the lockers included several useful cubbies and well-placed, three-pronged hooks. Each locker was customized to the activities/equipment the owner had to manage.

· Then, I did my best Randy Gaddo impersonation (see “Does Anybody Like a Bureaucrat?,” page 44), and brought each kid into the room, one by one, and showed him/her how the locker worked and asked for input on how to best keep it clean and organized.

· Finally, I channeled my inner Steve Yeskulsky (“Dollars and Sense,” page 30), and tried to make the room as energy-efficient as possible by replacing the current light bulbwith a new low-energy bulb. After all, this light is almost never turned off because the room is a busy, busy place.

I’m sure I could somehow tie this into the rest of the stories in this issue (“Multi-Use Sports Field Maintenance” may be a stretch, but “Shaking Inactivity” and “Risk Assessment” could probably work), but I think you get the point.

In this business, there is always room to grow. Ideas, processes, systems, products and services abound. Putting the right ones to work for you may simply be a matter of recognizing a recurring irritation, sitting down to figure out what, exactly, is causing it, and then seeking a solution.

Who knows? You may find your staff isn’t lazy. They’re just being set up to fail.

Till next month …

Rodney J. Auth