We have this wooden picket fence that runs around the front of our house. My wife and I built the fence ourselves for a very practical reason when we first moved in 11 years ago. At the time our youngest child was a toddler, we figured we'd have one or two more, and we simply needed some kid containment to keep them from straying off. Any number of types of fences would have done the trick, but our house is very old, and a picket fence seemed to strike the perfect balance between function and form.
Once it was up, I wondered why picket fences aren't as popular as they used to be. Over the last decade, however, I've come to gain a much better insight into that question. You have to paint it. Wood rots, and pieces have to be replaced. Gates wear and break down and occasionally have to be rebuilt. So while it was a joy to build the fence the first time, maintaining it has grown increasingly difficult over the years.
This fence is in many ways similar, I think, to how a lot of companies manage their shop floors.
As we've been fighting back the withering effects of time, we've barely noticed how the function of the fence has changed. It helped restrain other creatures, on both sides of the barrier, and it's kept some unwanted salespeople from ever reaching the front door. Better yet, it's stopped quite a few wildly thrown, kicked and hit balls of all types.
I have to admit that it's really starting to look pretty bad, and we have to do something about it. Oh, it's not that the condition bothers me so much. Most of those missing pickets fondly remind me of games of catch with my son. But to other people with no emotional connection to all the good things that have happened in my yard, it looks like we're badly in need of some serious renovation.
We are quickly coming to a crossroads. Do we invest in saving the old fence? Or do we tear it down and start all over again, building something else that suits our needs today? Our first impulse is to try to make that old fence look new again. But the reason we built it in the first place no longer exists. Should we take the course that our experience seems to suggest, even if that may not best serve our needs now or in the future? Or should we look at it all afresh, like we did the very first time?