Babies Down The River

May 16, 2022
Babies Down the River


Once upon a time, there was a small village on the edge of a river. The people there were good and life in the village was good. One day a villager noticed a baby floating down the river. The villager quickly swam out to save the baby from drowning. The next day this same villager noticed two babies in the river. He called for help, and both babies were rescued from the swift waters. And the following day four babies were seen caught in the turbulent current. And then eight, then more, and still more.

The villagers organized themselves quickly, setting up watchtowers and training teams of swimmers who could resist the swift waters and rescue babies. Rescue squads were soon working 24 hours a day. And each day the number of helpless babies floating down the river increased. The villagers organized themselves efficiently. The rescue squads were now snatching many children each day. While not all the babies, now very numerous, could be saved, the villagers felt they were doing well to save as many as they could each day. And life in the village continued on that basis.

However, as more of the villager’s time was spent saving the babies other critical components that made the villager’s life so good began to falter. Crops were struggling along with the livestock.

What to do. They had to save as many babies as they could but many of the villagers realized that if they did not begin spending the time needed to sustain the health of the village highly perilous scenarios were quite possible to fall upon the village.

 One day, however, someone raised the question, "But where are all these babies coming from? Who is throwing them into the river? Why? Let's organize a team to go upstream and see who's doing it." The seeming logic of the elders countered: "And if we go upstream who will operate the rescue operations? We need every concerned person here." "But don't you see," cried the one lone voice," if we find out who is throwing them in, we can stop the problem and no babies will drown and we can return to our former way of life and prevent potential failures of our sustenance and well being. By going upstream we can eliminate the cause of the problem." 

Of course, we need to do our part in rescuing those babies floating down the river. But we also need to take the risk of raising our voices and asking and finding out why.

What do you think this story means in regards to managing your business or team?

When you find yourself or your team spending excessive time and energy dealing with problems, you must get to the "Root Cause" and solve those problems. You must recognize the challenge and do so prior to those problems dominating your efforts. If you and your team are only putting our Band-Aids on the challenges then your problems will never be permanently solved.

What makes this scenario in business even more dangerous is the drain on your resources. When too much of your time and energy is spent putting out fires instead of preventing them before they start prohibits you from devoting those resources to the growth and development of your team or business.

Just as it's vital to address immediate needs (babies in the river), it's equally important to seek long-term, sustainable change through process improvement.

The difference between dealing with an issue and preventing the issue is the real lesson here. People in a reactive state pull babies out of rivers. Leaders pull babies out of rivers, and they stop people from throwing them in.


Results Driven Leadership's Management Training programs focus on your company's vision and strategy while guiding and removing obstacles for their team to achieve total success.


Listen To Our Podcast on Problem Solving at the Root Cause


About the author:

Vaughn is the co-founder of Results-Driven Leadership. He is a leadership development expert, podcaster, and author. His methods are brought from his real-world experience working on the front lines and living the role of being a high-impact leader and manager. There was no theory, just common-sense advice, and direction. He is a former executive with CarMax the world's largest and most respected company in the auto industry and is a Fortune 100 Best Places to Work.

Vaughn's mission is to improve the impact of executives and other managers by increasing their knowledge, skills, and abilities.

His motto is "No matter what business you're in, you're in the people business."

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