Sunday, July 5, 2009

Shane's Ship Story

We have so many problems. Which problem is most important?

Someone says: Well clearly, my problem is the one we need to fix first… We must solve the thing that is most important to me first. After all, I am working on the thing I think is most important. Otherwise I would be working on something else…

May I encourage you to think with me on this?

What if there actually is a way to solve 95% of our problems by working together to solve a certain root cause of all our problems? I know this can be done.

Join me in recognizing that problems should be prioritized. Let’s see if there is such a thing as a highest priority problem.

Let’s use a ship analogy.

Suppose there is a large, sophisticated, 4,000 passenger ship designed to sail from one continent to another over the course of three months. Suppose this ship has a several problems, including a rude captain, four thieves, a murderer, a pirate, a lazy crew, poorly prepared food, severely damaged dishes, crumbling paint and lumpy mattresses.

Which problem would you address first? And when would this happen?

Suppose there are three groups who each identify the problems they consider most important. Suppose they divide their energies and go to work. Let’s say that they all succeed or that some succeed or that none succeed. You choose the outcome you prefer.

Let’s also suppose that there is one other problem. The ship has a large hole that takes on water at a rate of 500 gallons per minute. Using every available resource, only 250 gallons per minute can be pumped out of the ship. At this rate, the ship will sink somewhere over the deep ocean about halfway to its destination.

While all the issues are important, only the hole in the ship affects every person on the ship. Only one problem absolutely must be solved or all is lost for the passengers.

The same problem will provide gain for the pirate and his associates. They like the hole.

The pirate who drilled the hole will have a vessel waiting to collect the loot and carry him on to the next adventure. He knows that the mathematical reality of water flow guarantees the ship will sink.

The only hope for the passengers is for them to know about the hole in the ship and plug it.

While they cannot remove the water fast enough, there will be no need to remove any water if they simply plug the hole before they leave. If the hole is plugged along the way, then once the hole is plugged, they have time, resources and opportunity to save themselves and the ship.

If they have knowledge of the hole and understand its effect, they will plug the hole and the remaining problems will matter again.

If for any reason they do not plug the hole, nothing else matters because good food and soft mattresses are not needed by people who have been looted and left to die.

Now let’s see if there is such thing as a root cause.

Suppose the pirate offered safe passage and part of the loot to the captain, part of the crew, the murderer, thieves and the ship owner.

Now we see clearly that the passenger’s loss is their gain. We also see that the danger we face, this group does not face.

We can also see that the reason this group of people has gathered on the ship is to steal, kill and destroy.

If the passengers were aware of what was coming, they would patch the hole and deal with the pirate.

But let’s just suppose that the passengers patch the hole and don’t even realize that this plan was in motion.

With hope of success gone, the pirate, murderer, thieves, captain and lousy crew would leave. Since now there will be no insurance settlement, the ship owner would again need to provide a valuable product and service to stay in business. To prevent loss, he would ensure that the food and other comforts were at least adequate and he would hire a dependable captain and crew.

Now we see that the hole in the ship was part of a plan to capture wealth. When the hope of gain through theft was gone, the criminals disbanded, the owner protected his property and employed his capital to gain a return. The passengers were safe and recipients of good service.

The Lesson

Some problems make all other problems meaningless and unimportant. Some problems are a higher priority.

Some problems are the hidden cause of other problems. The secondary problems divert our attention and keep us busy while our ship is sinking.

The United States is like this ship. We are nearing the deep waters. We must plug the hole. If we plug the hole, the problem you are most concerned about will probably disappear.

Do you know what the hole is?

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