More Penny Vampires Exposed

The last post about the Penny Vampire covered the most common species.  They do little immediate damage but over time they can be deadly.  Good thing they are easily defeated with simple tools.

Unfortunately there are darker forces afoot that although less common they serve a much more immediate danger.  And for me they are harder to post a strong defense against without being an ass.

Slow but Infectious Complacency

I don’t believe any of we hop growers believe we’re complacent.  Honestly a complacent hop grower is a soon-to-be extinct hop grower.  I’m referring to the tendency to become lazy about certain aspects and accepting it in your employees.

Setting the Example

Complacency Vampires affecting others can be successfully defeated through very clear communication of expectations.  I’ve found that most people seek praise of their manager and appropriate and targeted appreciation can do wonders for productivity.

Employees take cues from their boss.  Be energetic, focused, organized, and pleasant (until you need to be otherwise).  If you need them to perform a task at a certain speed or reach specific milestones then it is your responsibility to clearly communicate and measure progress.

For instance, on one of my farms I calculated that a string tying team should be able to tie and stake twine at 20 seconds per string.  In the morning with energy high they average 17 seconds so James is a happy boss.  If I left those assumptions stand I’d expect to hit certain milestones by day end.

After lunch thongs changed.  17 seconds became 25 seconds, and then 40 seconds.  Big deal, right?  Yes very big deal.  That stretch in efficiency represents a cost increase of $25/row to tie twine.  Multiplied by hundreds of rows and that money is suddenly greater than the budget for the entire task.

Happy Taskmaster

Like I mentioned above, employees typically want to do a good job.  They started strong but are lagging as the day evolves.  They’re not exhausted as this is not demanding work.  Time for a talk.

It’s easy to get frustrated and short but that’s not going to improve productivity.  I gathered the crew together and told them that for the first big day I thought everyone caught on well and the twine was just right.  But we’re slumping as the day goes on.  Why?

I asked their input and shared my observations.  We needed to swap jobs around to break up the monotony and stress how important focus is on such a simple task.  A five minute discussion got us back on track and 15 seconds was the time to beat.

Slaying Complacency

This is a tough monster to vanquish.  Ultimately it comes down to good management and appreciating efforts of everyone working.  There are times when the Complacency Vampire can morph into the Disgruntled Ogre but it’s our job to make sure we slay before it has a chance to wreck morale and crush enthusiasm.


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