Us vs. Them: A We Bit of a Problem
The other day I was chatting with a client about the inner-workings at a gold mine. There is an ongoing issue that happens throughout the mining industry between the Maintenance Department and Operations.
Now remember, we’re talking giant pieces of equipment. Fully-loaded Haul trucks that weigh upwards of a million pounds. Bull-dozers that weigh 450,000 lbs. And giant crushing machines that crush up to 1.2 million tons of rock per day! All of these pieces of equipment are the heart and soul of a mine because they move the dirt that produces the gold.
Maintenance is responsible for repairing broken equipment and maintaining the equipment by executing well-planned program that keeps the equipment up and running. Operations are the folks that use the equipment on a daily basis whose goal is to get the maximum output from the mine.
At times, Operations have been known to push the equipment a little bit harder or farther than it should. Occasionally, they may take a short cut and deviate from a standard operating procedure to save time or increase productivity. Part of the reason is that they are under extreme pressure to hit the daily targets while facing a constant barrage of challenges: inclement weather, accidents, instant shifts in plans, and unexpected equipment breakdowns.
These same challenges also put a tremendous amount of pressure on Maintenance because when equipment is down, productions drops dramatically.
And this is where the rub comes.
Maintenance says, “If you would take better care of the equipment it wouldn’t break down so much. We could then do the planned maintenance so the equipment doesn’t break down as frequently. We could plan instead of react!”
Operations says, “If you did a better job repairing the equipment so it didn’t break down, if you fixed it faster and had more parts on hand, we wouldn’t have a problem hitting the mine sites goals.”
Can you see where this is going?
The US vs. THEM Adage
Like every Us vs. Them relationship: sales vs. manufacturing, the plant vs. the office, liberals vs. conservatives, management vs. employees, blue-collar vs. white collar, Black vs. White, and Caucasian vs Asian, there is a battle line drawn.
The expectation is that you must line up on one side of the line or the other. It is this dualistic, exclusionary, antiquated mindset that says, “You are either with me or against me!” There is NO middle ground.
This is the same thinking at the heart of wars, poverty, caste systems, and many other social issues that have been around since the beginning of time. Let’s face it, Adam throws Eve under the bus and blames her as the reason he took a bite of the apple!
What amazes me, is that after all of these years of fighting and struggling, it appears that we haven’t learned a damn thing.
We gather in groups of individual I’s with other I’s, who act just like me, talk just like me, and most importantly believe exactly as I do! Then we line up against those who don’t align with our groupthink, and label them the enemy. All in an effort to feel a false sense of power and control.
A We Bit of a Solution
In attempting to gain a false sense of control or power, we fail to see that we are all inter-connected, all inter-related, and all inter-dependent on each other.
We are blinded by our individual need to be right, to be better than, to be in control in order to fill a inner need to have self-worth and value.
When we are so hyper-focused on the I and the needs of our fellow I’s, we miss the giant WE that could provide the only real, long-lasting solutions to these complex problems.
Will the Real We Please Stand UP
The solution is getting crystal clear about who the real WE is. The greater WE!
Is it the maintenance group, the operations group or the entire mine site? Is it manufacturing, the shop, the office, or the entire company? Is it the Conservative People, The Liberal People, or the American People? Is it the Black race, the White race, the Asian race, the Hispanic Race, or is it the Human race?
I wonder if at what point in time will we wake up and see this interconnection? Will we see that we do impacts everyone else? The answer to these issues is in seeking inclusivity, not exclusivity.
Exclusivity is all about being self-centered and egoic, which keeps us separate and apart. The harder we push to exclude, the farther apart we become.
The solutions won’t materialize by walking over each other. We won’t resolve these issues by avoiding or trying to go around each other. And they certainly won’t happen by under-mining each!
The way out to is work through. To work through the issues and the problems. Not alone and separate, or in our groups of fellow I’s, but with each other.
And for the record, it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about a family, a company, a city, a country, or the world. The same principles apply.
Reflection: Ask yourself, where is it in your life where you might be stuck in an Us vs. Them Mindset? What could you do to be more we-like and inclusionary?
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