Too Busy to Improve?


In this age of speeded up communications, travel, work and life, faster is not always the answer.

Several years ago I commissioned a cartoonist by the name of Rupert Besley to illustrate a concept for me.  The concept deals with the insidious human condition of using busyness as a reason (dare we say “excuse”) for not listening to new and potentially useful ideas or taking the time to learn new skills.

woman-on-hamster-wheelHow many times have you heard a business executive say something like; “I don’t have time to listen to a new idea, I’ve got too much on my plate right now” (or “I’m behind on a major project” or “I’ve got to get this presentation ready for next week’s meeting!”).  A friend of mine once described life in business as either “being busy” or the “illusion of being busy”.  It is very easy to get caught up in busyness and not even realise that, like the hamster on the wheel, there’s lots of activity but very little progress.

Slow Down to Go Fast!

A friend of mine tells a story about the time he worked as a firefighter in the Oregon forests as a summer job.  He was assigned to an experienced crew chief and they were driven to the location of a large forest fire in the mountains.  Rather than breaking out the shovels and axes and getting straight at the job of fighting the fire, the wise old crew chief told his team to grab their lunch sacks and sit down for a few minutes.

My friend questioned the logic of stalling while the fire was raging.  The crew chief asked them to slow down for a few minutes to observe the fire. Which way was the wind blowing? How fast was the fire moving? Were there any natural barriers they could use to divert the fire? Where was the best place to build a fire break?  None of these critical questions had crossed my friend’s mind since he was focused on action, not effective strategy.  To this day he says it was one of the most useful lessons he ever learned and he applies it nearly every day in running his business.

I often send this cartoon attached to an introductory letter when I would like to talk to a busy CEO about corporate culture, culture change and strategy execution.  Everyone knows that culture is important and culture impacts performance, but few know the real levers and tools for effective and sustainable culture change.  And besides, now’s not a good time . . . . Hence the cartoon.



Posted by:

John R Childress
Senior Advisor on Corporate Culture, Leadership and Strategy Execution
Author of LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid


PS: John also writes thriller novels

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
This entry was posted in consulting, Human Psychology, leadership, Organization Behavior, Personal Development, strategy execution and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Too Busy to Improve?

  1. I couldn’t agree more John. And this is getting worse, isn’t it, even compared to a few years ago , we seem so much more distracted and dysfunctional. Slowing down to get more done is so obvious, and yet so hard to do, when everyone around you is doing the opposite.

    I love that cartoon!


  2. Good John. Thank you.


Leave a Reply to Michael Brown Training Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s