I came across this old fable again recently.
So much of it applies to the improvement culture – especially if you run your equipment all the time to “maximize your output”
Once upon a time, a very strong woodcutter asked for a job in a timber merchant and he got it. The pay was really good and so was the work condition. For those reasons, the woodcutter was determined to do his best.
His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he supposed to work.
The first day, the woodcutter brought 18 trees.
“Congratulations,” the boss said. “Go on that way!”
Very motivated by the boss words, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but he could only bring 15 trees. The third day he tried even harder, but he could only bring 10 trees. Day after day he was bringing less and less trees.
“I must be losing my strength”, the woodcutter thought. He went to the boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand what was going on.
“When was the last time you sharpened your axe?” the boss asked.
“Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my axe. I have been very busy trying to cut trees…”
In the real world, this kind of decline happens much more slowly.
And it happens well beyond the context of equipment and maintenance.
If you don’t work to continuously improve your processes, they are degrading. You can’t just “standardize” your way to stability.