Hope Or Optimism

It’s a nice summer Wednesday. Two families are separately planning picnic lunches at a nearby lake for the following Saturday.

It’s a nice summer Wednesday. Two families are separately planning picnic lunches at a nearby lake for the following Saturday. Both sets of kids are excited about the outing. Frisbees, baseballs, bats and gloves are ready to be packed in the family car.

But by Friday, the weather forecaster is calling for a 30 percent chance of showers on Saturday. The parents from each family discuss the forecast. The first family hopes it is wrong, that the rain will hold off and the picnic can go on. They decide to give it a go, with the hope it doesn’t rain.

The second family also looks at the forecast. Reasoning that a 30 percent chance of rain means there is a 70 percent chance it won’t rain, they make plans to go on the picnic. But in case it does rain, the family packs rain gear. This family approaches the situation with optimism.

One of these fictional families is hopeful and the other is optimistic. I see a subtle difference in the respective positive outlook of each family.

For the hopeful family, the possibility of rain on the picnic is simply the way it is. Being hopeful, they choose to go on with the plans for the picnic. However, if it does rain, they will get wet and their picnic will be washed out.

The optimistic family approaches the problem of possible rain in much the same way as the hopeful family. One key difference, though, is that rather than simply hoping the rain holds off, the optimistic family makes plans to deal with the rain if it comes. Taking rain gear means this family will have a picnic regardless of the weather. If it rains, their picnic will simply be different from what they planned, but it won’t be a washout.

When it comes to predicting and planning for changing business conditions, it seems to me that many metalworking shops approach their business survival philosophy like one or the other of these families. Some shops hope some external agent will come to the rescue and preserve the business as it has always been.

An optimistic philosophy, on the other hand, approaches the possibility of change with a more proactive plan. Manufacturers who think in this way understand that business conditions are in a constant flux and that success and survival depend on how effectively a business can deal with it. Accepting that rain will fall and sun will shine, and planning for it, is step one to dealing with the dynamic nature of today’s manufacturing climate.

As we go into 2004, economic signs are finally looking better for manufacturers. Have you resolved to be hopeful or optimistic about business in the new year?