meta You’ve got to Learn How to Pick Your Dairy Battles :: The Bullvine - The Dairy Information You Want To Know When You Need It

You’ve got to Learn How to Pick Your Dairy Battles

As a sister, mother and grandmother, I am well-aware of the battles that can arise between siblings.  On the one hand, this frustrates me because I think it’s inherently a great thing to have a ready-made playgroup, captive audience or blood-is-thicker-than-water defender.  On the contrary, I don’t care who “started it” because I enjoy a good fight that moves things forward. Having said that, I hate arguments that are solely for the sake of a power trip by an individual or a group. To me, they are a complete waste of time! Furthermore, I don’t limit my position on proper fighting to family only.  I think a good fight is even more important in the business world.

How does the dairy industry deal with fighting?

Dairying is by its nature competitive in many ways.  We compete for genetics. We compete for sales. We compete for recognition. This can naturally expose us to many contentious issues. There is nothing wrong with that.  In fact, when two or more co-workers or competitors recognize a problem and have differing viewpoints, it sets up the potential for a solution that could end up being better for everyone. However when anyone puts their own interests above the dairy operation or the association or business they represent, fighting erupts and becomes counterproductive in every sense of the word.

How NOT to pick a GOOD fight

If we are looking for examples of how not to pick a good fight, we can all point to dairy industry operations or family farms, competitors or dairy suppliers, who are so single-mindedly focused on putting down their competition that they end up shooting themselves in the foot. When it’s all about, “Me. My job.  My people. Pay me”, it closes the door to sharing of progressive ideas that keep the industry as a whole relevant.

Agreement Masks Problems

We think we like it when everyone appears to agree. It might seem to be working when everyone is chummy all the time. After all, harmonious agreeable teamwork is a dream we would all like to live with on a daily basis.  However, there is a danger of becoming too agreeable and too loyal.  It backfires when people are content to follow even when they have concerns about the final destination. When harmony is the over-riding goal, signals of impending trouble will not be acknowledged.  Nobody wants to be the whistle-blower, drama queen or lone wolf. Everyone is afraid to point out the elephant in the room.

Beyond Contented Cows

A peaceful, harmonious milking line is the dream workplace for productive cows.  However, it can be the worst thing in the world for a progressive dairy business. While we want contented cows, complacency in other areas of our dairy business becomes one of the first indicators of trouble ahead. For example, why is it that we continually say the dairy industry is healthy when farms passing to the next generation are steadily declining? Or — Why is it so hard to find a pool of labor for agriculture? Maintaining a façade of harmony can become a mask for behind-the-scenes problems.  Essential work is overlooked because nobody wants to rock the boat.  Those who try to “fix” everything to maintain the outward look of teamwork, eventually burn out, as they become dissatisfied with the lost potential. Too much harmony doesn’t work.  Friction and in-fighting don’t work. It’s a fine line, and it’s one that is too important to be ignored.

How do you pick your battles?

There are ways to determine if you are picking the right fight.  First and foremost you must be fighting to gain value.  There are three value propositions that are worth fighting for:

  1. Saving 15% a year. This could be 15% of your resources.  It could be 15% of your time.
  2. Adding 10%. Will the change you’re fighting for allow you to charge more?
  3. Faster growth. The fight is a good one if it enables you to grow sales or market share faster than the current market.

If you answered “Yes!” to one of the above three questions, your battle passes the value test.  If all three answers are “No!” you need to reassess either your business plan or your action plan — perhaps both!

Are you ready to FIGHT for a change?

Change is a hard concept for everyone to get their heads around.  There used to be an advertisement showing a black-eyed smoker who said, “I’d rather fight than switch!” This has so many issues, but most of them are better addressed another day.  Today the key to knowing whether it’s better to fight can be solved with another 3 point checklist.

Will the change you’re fighting for

  1. Require the team, farm, board or business to work in a way that is fundamentally different than the current process?
  2. Will the change require new training, different perspectives or specialized knowledge that is not being used currently?
  3. Change always turns on communication. Will the proposed change require a different real-time information flow between various parts of the dairy operation, team or advisors than the way information is managed now?

You have picked the right fight if you answered “Yes!” at least once.  If all three questions earned a “No!” response, then you are ready for a task force, not a fight.

Turning pain into gain builds dairy strength

We all know that, if there is a fight, not everyone will win.  Winners and losers must both find the way to move on. Not all ideas are good ideas. Not all strategies work. Communicating the outcome to the ones whose position lost can be hard. How it is handled can damage relationships and affect the milking line, the board meeting or the management team. Good leaders find a way to turn disappointing news into an occasion for personal development.

Fighting the right fight is a discipline, not an event.

When one fight ends, the best leaders will be looking for the next fight. That’s not to say that the workplace should be an environment of constant turmoil. Progressive dairy managers know when to give people rest. But they continually seek ways to push people to the point where they find their energy and enthusiasm to seek the next way to move forward.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Always remember that in order to make dairy progress, “It’s not important whether you win or lose. Its how you fight to get it right that makes all the difference!



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