The Forest Around Us



Bill Moore

Talking to the trees

....There’s a definite lack of communication! But nobody told me! I didn’t understand what he meant! Nobody told me!
....Ah, pearls of wisdom from the mouths of the masses who are uninformed. And I find that in this forest around us too many are misinformed or uninformed—and the results can vary from serious accidents or fatals to just simply doing something the wrong way. I call it talking to the trees—and it’s a habit we are all guilty of at one time or another. Maybe there are worse bad habits—but with the high costs of today it would seem the more things you can do—or have done correctly—the better the cost.
....People are the only real asset this in-dustry has. All the big logloaders, trucks and whiz-bang methods we know are only as good as the people who utilize them. Granted, communi-cation lines such as the media, meetings and education are better today than they used to be. But the business of logging is a more specialized and sometimes complicated business than it used to be, so it is to our advantage from wherever we stand to “get the mes-sage across.” And not only get it across but make it sink in and be understood and remembered.
....This industry has always had its fair share of those people from foreign lands who take to the woods because the work sounds basically simple. But how many times do you remember seeing a logger with a language difficulty, standing idle because he did not understand what was wanted of him. Or worse still that same individual rushing into potential danger spot because he didn’t want to appear lazy.
Sometimes the noise of machines makes conversation difficult, and yet I’ve seen men hollering at each other and I am sure half the time never understanding each other. Walk away

old buddy where it’s nice and quiet and you won’t have to abuse your lungs. You may need that puff when you climb up the sidehill.
....It is sometimes a source of ama-zement to find out how ill informed a logging crew can be. Just plain stubbornness, or forgetfulness or a “they should know better” attitude is the cause of so many problems.
....I remember the case of an engineer laying out a logging road—then the shovel digging the grade—and lo and behold the superintendent appeared and said he didn’t want the road where it was and to put it somewhere else. Now I ask you! That is stupid communication and it’s costly. Yet it happened—don’t let it happen to you—don’t talk to the trees.
....The crew gathers for a safety meeting. This should be a good place to communicate, but sometimes men are shy or bored with such meetings and will not speak up. A little provoking can sometimes get the silent ones to open up—and to the benefit of all. Try it—you’ll like it. And, oh yes—if you are the boss or high mucky muck of the meeting, don’t think this is an open invitation to do your Gettysberg address. Nothing but nothing will turn most audiences off like a long winded speaker. Better, like a good boxer, a jab here and a provoke there, and mix it up with the people. The words flow easier back and forth this way.
....There are more shy people than there are bold ones. Both may have their own way of communicating but both must be communicated to in different ways. Chances are the shy ones will get into less trouble than the bold talkies. But it takes a lot of bold men to cope with some of the logging that goes on in this land. There are times when danger is close at hand — and a careless act can mean disaster.
It is quite often difficult to get your message across to such men for they feel they know it possibly better than you, the supervisor. The language better be pretty plain in such circum-stances if you expect to impress.
....There seem to be so many philo-sophies about today. There’s an en-vironmental one, a rule book by government one, a get the big guy feeling, and I suppose there is still the “I’ll look after me” philosophy. All these areas require that people communicate back and forth, so we all know where we are at. And yet as our system grows we sometimes totally fail to understand other people’s way of doing things. We not only don’t understand, we develop a blockage in our own minds that will not accept some other system than our own. This type of communication breakdown can hurt. To mend it takes a lot of good common sense. Maybe if the words were dollars and cents we would understand better.
....If a man does not understand what he is supposed to do—how to keep in the clear—how to follow instructions and as in the woods, how to survive, he stands an excellent chance of being hurt and the company stands to have higher costs. Draw your own con-clusions about good communications.
....Too often there seems a reluctance on the part of some management to tell the crew, or sometimes the staff, just what the company’s plans are for the coming year. Maybe they feel their people don’t care or possibly they want to keep it a deep dark secret. There is no surer way to instill poor morale in people than not informing them of company policy and plans. Some will be interested and a company needs every ally it can find these days.
....I have written before of the factory committees of Finland whereby it is a
British Columbia Lumberman, March, 1975

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law of the land that all plants and businesses shall form such a committee of equal labor force and management. They meet once a month and with alternate yearly chairmen discuss the overall business of the company — from safety to production to emp-loyee’s problems. This committee pro-vides and excellent forum for visiting management or labor delegates and the spectrum of topics handled by a good committee can only lead to a better understanding of what the employee can expect from his company and what the management’s views are of conditions and the future. I’m sure this form of com-mittee would work well in many of our larger plants and logging camps to help the flow of communication to everyone.
....This type of small city council can assist a manager to detect weak spots in the company’s activities by having a direct inflow of information from the ranks. It can also put more credibility in the eyes of the labor force as to what management is up to. I found experiments of this type of committee being used in northern Quebec and it was starting to work. Just how it will work elsewhere will depend on how honest management will be in dis-cussing itself and how interested labor will be in contributing to such a committee. One thing is certain—it beats the old style dictator management that is fast passing from the scene.
....I’m sure I’m not reminding readers, when I talk of communication, of some-thing they don’t already know and have had countless meetings over. And yet this very aspect of our working life is still the number one fault in the breakdown of good relation-ships between management and labor. It is a never ending topic that must be brought to the attention of all who hold some form of responsibility in our industry. Shrug it off or say to hell with it and trouble is on the way. Pay attention to seeing that people are continually reminded and the results can only be good—safe—and less costly. Who’s against that?
....Poor understanding can happen between two partners or between a president and his people. That chap in the U.S.A. who held the highest rank in the land developed a lack of real communi-cation with the folks who elected him. As a result, and with a great deal of damage to the country’s morale, the chap now walks the beach—a lonely man.
....So talk to the trees—if you don’t want people to understand you. The trees will not bark back—they’ll just think you’re a sap. Come on old pal, communicate.

Keep out of the bight,

British Columbia Lumberman, March, 1975