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Can YOU See The Forest?


The saying that someone "can't see the forest for the trees” is a reference to people who get so involved with the details of an issue that they lose sight of the larger picture.


It is so easy to do this with some of the complex challenges we face everyday. You may also hear it as “so-and-so can't see the wood for the trees,” depending on regional dialects and personal preference. If you are accused of being unable to see the forest for the trees, you may want to take a step back from the situation and look at the operation as a whole. This should be done often and its importance cannot be overstated. Just being out in the field doesn’t qualify that you are involved in and watching our work. It takes more than that.

We have to have the discipline to take a step back and look at the picture as a whole.


Here are some useful "safety" questions you can ask yourself to stay locked-in on what's important:

  1. How does our access look?

  2. How does our material handling or housekeeping look?

  3. Have we set up our team for success or are we missing something that could help us be safer and more productive?


Walk around your work area and look at it from different vantage points. Don’t miss the opportunity to fix something before it breaks. This proverb is also sometimes reversed, as in “he can't see the trees for the forest,” referencing the idea that it is also possible to be too broad when looking at a situation.


Someone who makes sweeping pronouncements without considering the details could be said to be exhibiting just as much of a logical flaw as someone who focuses on a minute aspect of a situation without examining the whole. It can be a frustration to the group working on the details to not be heard or considered when making rash decisions.


It takes a healthy balance to understand the details but to also manage the big picture. I am reminded of a saying that Mike Klein, one of operators on the Farrington Project always told me, “Either you control the situation or the situation will control you”. Be involved and watch our work and stay in control of your situation so we can make sure that everybody goes home safe.

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