Seeking Scabs and Calluses – First Aid for Operational Excellence

accident-1238326_640“Just do it!”

“Make it happen!”

“Go for it!”

In a world filled with motivational catch phrases, we glorify those who overcome all odds to succeed. Our culture extols pushing through the pain in pursuit of victory. Who hasn’t heard legendary business tales of self-sacrifice?

“We stayed up all night to finish…”

“When my boss dropped the ball, I spent the entire holiday weekend in the office…”

“We jumped on a plane to save our largest account…”

We expect our team members to persevere and serve our customers even when processes and systems are sub-optimal. This is the norm. However, when our employees grow accustomed to pain and irritants in the workplace, they stop noticing the cause. Within our organizations, scabs ooze and calluses thicken, masking the true business issues. When root problems are ignored, our business and our people suffer. As leaders, we can’t forget our obligation to identify the “injuries,” provide “first aid,” and confirm that the problems are “cured.”

What’s Irritating You? Your team?

So, as an actively planned part of your leadership strategy, seek out the irritants — before scabs turn to callouses, the suboptimal becomes accepted, and you lose your opportunity gain the benefits of improvement. What real business issues are you “putting up with” on a daily basis? What unresolved complaints have resulted in complacency within your organization?


Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of leading teams all across the United States. During my site visits, I probed to find out what was irritating them – and frequently uncovered system, process and network issues that, when resolved, benefitted our entire organization.

In your next internal continuous improvement seminar, strategic planning session, or informal “free donut-induced” break room meeting, ask the following questions of your team:

  • What have you complained about that’s still not fixed?
  • What tasks seem too hard to get done?
  • What processes have too many steps?
  • Is there anyone on your team burning out?
  • What are you required to do that doesn’t seem to make any sense?

In short, don’t succumb to the lure of complacency. Seek out the scabs and scars. Ask the questions and make necessary changes. Bring in external help if your problems are ingrained enough that you can’t even see them anymore. Remove the irritants sooner than later, and you will enjoy the profitability that more efficient operations bring.

Leigh Ann Pagnard

Leigh Ann Pagnard
Leigh Ann Pagnard helps companies grow and increase their profitability. As founder and president of Crescendo, she currently serves as a strategic consultant to the staffing industry.

Leigh Ann Pagnard

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