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Welcome to the home of the Modern Farm Business® podcast, hosted weekly by Dean Heffta. Modern Farm Business translates proven methods and best practices from the business arena to today's modern farm leadership environment. We'll be learning from forward-thinking experts and discovering how to apply time-tested techniques to make real improvements on the farm.

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Dec 13, 2018


It’s exciting to invent or discover new ways of doing things, or to go to a meeting and leave motivated with someone’s unique approach to business. But one of many hurdles that can challenge us is called the Planning Fallacy—we are generally quite inaccurate when it comes to predicting how long something is going to take to do and how hard it will be to accomplish. But this bias isn’t all bad; many times we can get halfway through an undertaking and think to ourselves, If I had known it was going to be this hard, I wouldn’t have started. The hope is that the thing we are doing is valuable, and that our optimism got us started on something that we may not have otherwise done. It’s good to have this built-in optimism because it gets us going. But there is another element that is much more dangerous—the assumption that introducing the idea equates to implementing it.
It happens to the best of us: we decide to make a change, and dedicate ourselves to that change. We probably stick to it for a while, but before long it’s back to our old habits. When these things happen, we might feel discouraged. We spent the money on the new accounting system and we still haven’t switched to it as our $1,000 treadmill sits in the basement with less than a mile on it. Today we’re getting into the key elements of what makes some changes easy and others seemingly impossible—and as leaders how we can approach change differently.


  1. Sometimes we can buy a solution, while other times the solution is a process. Know the difference. If we realize that we are having a problem getting fieldwork done because we are short a tractor, then all we have to do is buy a tractor. If we see that we’d be able to speed up repairs with a cordless impact wrench, the all we have to do is buy the wrench and voilà! Problem solved. Unfortunately, many of our biggest results come from a change in process or behavior instead. Leaders need to be able to distinguish between when buying something solves the problem and when it is just part of an overall process change.
  2. Clarify the issue and the benefit of the solution. It’s really easy to fall in love with cool solutions. Maybe it’s some new way of doing things you heard a speaker relay, or a really neat piece of equipment you saw at a trade show—but before you write the check, get clear on what the problem really is: How big is the problem? Is it even worth solving? Once you’re clear on the problem, shift to clarifying what you really want and how the team or organization will be better off after solving the problem. Nobody likes putting effort into something that isn’t really worth the time, or if they have to do it just because the boss said to. Connect with the why to create more personal buy-in to the change effort.
  3. Identify the hurdles you will face in the process. For success to happen after implementing a change, we need to be able to look out into the future for potential situations or tendencies that could derail our progress. The leader is required to model the way over these hurdles; to slow down and coach new behavior and expectations.
  4. Incorporate the players. Change is usually a people problem.
    a. Identify who is going to be affected by taking a new approach, and bring them into the solution process—What changes would they recommend to the process? How are we going to support each other in the change? And make sure they and other team members have the authority to hold even the boss accountable for staying on track with the new process.
    b. Identify other players who are part-time and need to be trained;
    c. Or it could be family members who like to randomly come by and make a mess.
    By identifying the players you have a chance to bring them into the solution and communicate what the new expectations will be.
  5. Keep banging the drum. During the change process, the leader needs to be consistent in focusing the team on the goal, on coaching people with their little decisions, and regularly bringing people back to the basics of what has to be done differently. It’s catching people doing the right thing. It’s coaching people on the small stuff. It’s training on expectations for new people.

This is the real work of leadership. What we focus on grows—which means we can’t focus on everything. We can’t fall in love with every new shiny idea. It’s having the discipline to say “No” to new ideas because you know the team doesn’t have the capacity to add another change just yet.

Thanks for listening! Email me any questions or comments at See you next week!
Episode #77: Ideas are easy. Change is hard