A man was walking through the forest on a quiet summer’s day and as he went he gave thanks for all of the good things in his life, including this opportunity to walk in such a beautiful place. As he walked along, the peace of the woods became broken by a repeated dull thud which got increasingly louder the further along the path that he went. After a short while the man arrived at a clearing where he found a Wood Cutter who was hard at work chopping down a mighty fir tree. On seeing the man, the Wood Cutter stopped his work, mopped the sweat from his brow and took a drink from his canteen. “That looks like hard work” said the man. “It is” said the Wood Cutter “and I have to get all of the trees in this clearing chopped down by the end of the day. I did 10, two days ago, but only 5 yesterday.” Wanting to help, the man offered to finish cutting down  the  fir tree whilst the Wood Cutter had a rest. But on picking up the Wood Cutters axe he discovered that it was blunt. “It’s no wonder that you are having such a hard time” said the man “Your axe is blunt!” “I know it is” said the Wood Cutter “but I haven’t got time to sharpen it! I’ve got to cut down all of these trees!”

This is a classic approach that many of us take when we feel swamped by our workload and the amount of tasks that we or our teams have to complete. ‘Sharpening your axe’, whether it is through training or process or system improvement can restore productivity and offer real benefits.