Summer highway construction – a role model for your business

Jeff Havens here, somehow. To be honest, I’m surprised I was able to sit down at my computer to write this, since by all accounts I should still be stuck on the interstate. I drove across the great state of Indiana yesterday and found myself enjoying the ritual of endless construction zones that is played out every summer in every state in America. And I’ll admit, I was initially tempted to scream at all those stupid orange barrels while they silently, knowingly mocked me. 

But then I realized that our nation’s annual highway construction ritual is perhaps the best model for the way we should all run our businesses. And the more construction zones I go through, the more ingenious their system seems.

A few of the flashes of brilliance I observed yesterday:

Ridiculous redundancies! I think my favorite part of highway construction is that when they’re working on one mile of road, they block off 11. That’s the equivalent of making repairs on one of your manufacturing plants but closing all your other plants too so that your broken plant won’t feel so weird and awkward by being alone. 

Excessive idleness! In almost every road construction site I’ve had the privilege to drive through, there are several workers who seem to be performing jobs that could just as easily be performed by a handful of sandbags. Case in point – the ubiquitous “Slow” sign holder person. Most of the time I can’t tell whether the person is supporting the sign or if it’s the other way around. And you’d think that after 80 years of highway construction, the Department of Transportation would have figured out a way to stand that “Slow” sign up without needing a person to do it. 

An impressive lack of information to your customers! I’m sure there’s a good reason that highway construction crews shut down more miles than they’re working on at any one time. There’s probably a good reason why the “Slow” sign is held up by a person instead of a $10 metal holder. But I sure don’t know what those reasons are! And if there’s anything that will endear your customers to you, it’s making sure they don’t know why things aren’t working. Seriously, go to an airport bookstore sometime – people love mysteries.



So the next time you’re driving 23 miles an hour behind a semi and next to what appears to be a perfectly serviceable stretch of highway that you nevertheless can’t use because somebody somewhere had a few hundred extra orange barrels lying around, don’t get angry. Use it as a lesson for how to run your business. Odds are that there are plenty of things running smoothly and efficiently around your office, and you should fix that as soon as you get to work.

If you’re ever actually able to get there.

Jeff Havens is a corporate speaker and trainer who helps people succeed at leadership, communication, professional development, and more by telling them exactly what not to do. He shares his unique blend of comedy and content at

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