Some Time Away Enhances Ability to 'See the Forest'

Eric Frederick |

How many times have you misplaced an object and spent several minutes looking for it, only to discover it was in clear view on the table right in front of you?
We all seem to have the ability to see without really seeing. The old saying, “I can’t see the forest for the trees,” is based on this human condition. When we see something often enough, we begin to discount the information coming into our brains. We find we’re no longer able to accurately view our world.
One of the great things about taking a long vacation is the fresh perspective that it gives us when we return to work. We truly see things as they really are, providing we take the time to look.
But too often, we bury ourselves under the mountain of paperwork that accumulated while we were gone and thereby waste this most valuable resource.
This isn’t the only time when our ability to see is enhanced.
During the past year, some members of my management staff have suffered health problems that have caused them to miss extended periods of time from work. Their individual absences from the laundry have created unique opportunities to effectively judge their contributions to the department. They’ve also provided opportunities for other management team members to grow by stepping forward and helping to pick up the slack.
These changes in the normal operation of the laundry create opportunities for all management team members to view the operation in a different way. It gives them the chance to see details that were lost in the clutter of daily activities.
Companies often hire operational consultants because of their ability to accurately see the entire laundry operation. Their fresh perspective is often all that’s needed to identify ways to improve production. A consultant’s ability to see the operation from several different angles and their willingness to question the status quo are their greatest assets.
So why should we be concerned about how we see our operation?
I eventually found the mouse for the laptop that I unpacked and placed on the table. It only took me a couple of minutes of looking in the wrong place before it reappeared right where I’d left it. The importance of understanding this principle is in the realization that we need to take advantage of those brief moments when our ability to see clearly is at its peak.
When we come back from a vacation of two weeks or more, we need to make sure that we schedule our first couple of days to work in the laundry. This new perspective is far too valuable to spend it in meetings or catching up on paperwork. Carry a notebook with you, because you’ll see things much differently during those days. Look for opportunities for improvement and write them down.
The ability to see things as they really are and not as we expect to see them is so valuable. By taking advantage of these opportunities, we’ll find ways to continuously improve our operations.

About the author

Eric Frederick

Carilion Laundry Service

Director of Laundry Services

Eric Frederick is director of laundry services for Carilion Laundry Service, Roanoke, Va., and past president of the National Association of Institutional Linen Management (NAILM), now called the Association for Linen Management (ALM). He’s a two-time association manager of the year. You can reach him by e-mail at


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