How shoveling in a blizzard can be used as a business metaphor

You may have heard that we’re getting a lot of snow here in the Northeast.

I don’t have a snow blower or a plow attached to my SUV, but I have a 17-year-old (although the concept of shoveling is more alien to teenagers today than it was when I was growing up in Buffalo).

Shoveling last week wasn’t much fun.  My neighbor offered me the use of his snow blower, but he got nervous about the sound of his motor in the face of so much heavy, wet snow that he asked if it was OK that I didn’t use it (metaphor for this post: dealing with a reduction in resources).  So I go inside and get the teenager (after the wife expresses reluctance to pay for a guy to plow).  The wife — for the purposes of this post — is the manager who has lost his or her mind, but that’s another story.

So this week, I decide to re-engineer the process. Recognizing that we’re looking at another 24 inches of snow — and the wife doesn’t seem to be budging on her “no paying for plowing” edict — I change my approach as the snowstorm kicked off Tuesday night around 6.

  • 9:45  p.m., Tuesday:  Went outside and got rid of the first 3-4 inches.  Went pretty quickly.  Used my Snowovel (a great invention combining wheels and a shovel) and the snow was light and fluffy.
  • 8:30 a.m., Wednesday:  Went outside with the 12-year-old to get the overnight snow (with the prospect of the big blizzard coming after 11 a.m.).  Nobody else outside, except one guy trying to move the wet snow with his undersized snow blower.  He gave up quickly.  Rest of neighborhood sleeps in.  Max needs lots of instruction (not a Buffalo native; he’s from this area where everyone is excited that we’re going to break the season record of 50-something inches, which is a light week of snow in Buffalo).  I just put on the iPod and get rid of another eight inches of wet, heavy snow.  Teenager comes out for last 30 minutes.  Wants to know why I let him sleep.  Told him I woke him up but he must have fallen back asleep.  He saves his life by apologizing in a believable manner.
  • 3 p.m., Wednesday.  Headed outdoors for the 12-14 inches we’ve gotten since 11 a.m.  Neighbors are working, looking irritated.  My task was easier than everyone else, but still pretty ugly.  My strategy appears to have saved me a heart issue and was a decent alternative to the EFX. 
  • 7 p.m., Wednesday.  Just looked outside.  Lots of blowing and drifting.  More snow.  Some people haven’t touched their driveways yet.  They’re pretty much screwed tomorrow.  Wife just told me she’s impressed with my effort and she’s OK with hiring a plow tomorrow.  Says I better use those negotiating skills I keep bragging about to keep the price down.  My wife doesn’t know it, but her 360-feedback just headed north.

Moral of the story.  When faced with a problem that involves a big hassle over time, Bulldog Simplicity says break it up into smaller pieces.  If the CEO sees that you’re working at it, good things might happen.  If he (or she) sees that you’re working at it and doesn’t much care, you’ve at least made your job easier over the longer term.  Leaving the problem until it’s really built up means you’re either looking at a really big problem or the need to throw a lot more money at the problem.


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