When my wife Sue and I were first married, we knew we wanted to have children. But it seemed such a daunting responsibility. It would change our lives forever. What if we didn't turn out to be good parents? What if our kids didn't turn out to be good people? And so we "waited a while," which is a euphemism for putting it off.
Today our three children are the joy of our life. It's a funny thing. Raising kids is a lot more work than I ever thought it would be. But the rewards are far greater than I ever hoped, coming in all sort of ways that I never could have imagined.
If we were to do it all over again, we probably wouldn't wait as long. But who's to know these things? It's only through the experience that we become acquainted with the subtle benefits of each new adventure.
Lots of chosen new experiences are like that. You never truly understand what's to be gained until you've done it. What's more, a lot of the things you worry over going in don't turn out to be the main issues at all.
But what do kids have to do with manufacturing? A lot of shops go through similar tribulations when it comes to applying new techniques and technology. They worry and wait. They worry both that life--and competition--may be passing them by, but also about the responsibility of making a new way work, that it will turn out to be everything they hoped. And they wait for a clearer course of action to present itself, for a better time to implement change, and sometimes for change to be thrust upon them.
You can put off the big things. Buying machine tools. Implementing new management systems. Nurturing the workforce to move in different ways. Or they can be small. Trying a new tool. Fixing an outmoded procedure. Asking someone what they really think, and listening to the answer.
All of these things are easy to delay because we know that they won't just force somebody else to change, they'll force us to change too.
But it all comes back to a lesson that most nervous parents eventually learn, or should. On the front side, when you're contemplating the big change, all you're really thinking about is you. But once you're into it--once those children have been brought into the world--it's no longer about you at all. It's about them. Then the satisfaction comes in seeing those creations take hold, and make their own way in the world.