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Pole Pole – A Lesson in Swahili

Written by Tom Bouwer on February 12, 2015

Implementers EOS

Pole PolePole Pole – pronounced Polay Polay – means slowly, slowly in Swahili. Our guide hiking up Kilimanjaro (and later assistant guide if you read my previous blog) kept saying this over and over. Admittedly, I’m not the most patient person in the world – so this Pole Pole thing kind of ticked me off.

I was in good shape – we could go faster than this – I mean, come on man, people are passing us! Every time I started to speed up I heard, “Tom, pole pole”. I finally asked “what’s up with this pole pole thing?” “Tom, Alex”, he said, “everyone can go fast at 9,000 feet – I want you to be able to get to the top.” In other words, by going slowly, we had a better chance of reaching our goal in less time.

Sure enough, we got to 15,000 and felt great. Plenty of energy and a lot of stamina. We did the last 4,300 vertical feet in a little over 4.5 hours – the typical hiker takes 7-8 hours. Going down, we saw about 10 people getting helped down the mountain – having not reached the top.

Less is more

It got Alex and I thinking, what lesson are we learning here? Simple – less is more. Fewer, slower steps will get you there faster. Our clients often want to fill their Rock sheet – give everyone at least 7 Rocks. Unfortunately, doing this will pretty much guarantee you will end up going more slowly and getting less accomplished.

At a recent quarterly meeting for EOS implementers, Gino said, “Our goal is to push our clients to have only 3 rocks. Not always possible, but it is our goal. Keep asking them ‘which of these rocks is less important than the others’ and then kill it”.

So the next time you start to look at your annual goals, rocks or even daily tasks, remember these 2 words: Pole Pole – and reduce your list. You’ll actually reach your ultimate objective faster.

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