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Systems Thinking Part 3: Breaking Down Silos

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farmer-in-fieldBeing an effective manager requires a big picture view of your business. In other words, you must manage your entire farm, not just one area or piece at a time. Don’t kid yourself; what you do in one area will affect the rest of the business. You’ll find this to be true no matter what you are doing – anything from strategic planning to branding to seeking out new markets to disciplining an employee. Let’s talk about this idea of “systems thinking” in more detail (and you can check out part two of the series here!). 

Considering All Decision-Making Impacts

Let’s say you are considering the purchase of a new tractor this year. As you ponder that decision, what factors are in your mind? Simply price and payment options? Hold on! Spending the money on a new tractor means that you cannot build more grain storage this year and you cannot move ahead with adding irrigation to some of your acres. Will that purchase support your farm’s culture and enhance team morale? What are the benefits you will gain in efficiency as you plant? Are you fully utilizing the tractors you already have? Does your banker believe you are equipment-heavy for the number of acres you farm? Systems thinking requires you to consider all aspects of every decision and effects that will be felt on all other areas of your farm. 

Planning Ahead for Farming Processes 

So, how can you begin today to be a “big-picture” manager? Start with developing a centralized farm calendar for the next year that includes the main areas: operations, technology, crop sales, business development, human resources and finance. The sample below is a partial calendar designed to get you started. Note in this sample all four quarters with each month are displayed for several functional areas of your farm. Devising a calendar such as this will force you to consider all areas as you plan your entire farm’s work. 


Remember, your job is to manage the entire farm. Decisions, including timing of your actions, in one area will affect, directly or indirectly, all areas. Think globally to manage your farm with maximum efficiency for best results. Avoid creating silos within your farming operation. Encourage your entire team to think holistically in everything they do. Provide time in your staff meetings for discussions of pending decisions and think together about effects on all fronts. Eventually, you and your staff will naturally go through this kind of thought process before making decisions. It could mean huge savings to you in time, effort and money. And it could help you avoid costly errors due to unforeseen consequences of decisions made without proper analysis and forethought.

Don’t miss the fourth blog article in this series, which will discuss data and control systems. Until then, take a look at more of our resources about managing every aspect of your farming operations! 

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