Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Taking Care Of Business

...a kingdom was lost, all for the want of a horseshoe nail. For Want Of A Nail
For want of a nail, a shoe was lost,
For want of a shoe, a horse was lost,
For want of a horse, a rider was lost,
For want of a rider, a message was lost,
For want of a message, a battle was lost,
For want of a battle, a kingdom was lost,
All for the want of a horseshoe nail.



If you recognize this post, it’s because parts of it appeared several months ago. This last week I was asked about it and I decided to repeat it with a few additions and changes. But, I left the poem intact!

It is easy to be energized by the idea of a new or big work challenge: Those are the times when all of us are more inclined to feel like contributors to the bigger picture of our organizations. However, those big challenges do not happen often, and most of our work is recurring and routine. Supervisors and managers should know and appreciate the value of every task that helps maintain an effective organization, and frequently remind employees of how important those tasks are.

  • Supervisors are often advised to develop challenging work for employees who seem unmotivated by regular work. It is far better to help employees see that the regular work they were hired to do is worth doing and worth doing well–and to demonstrate that truth by actively showing appreciation for well-done daily work.
  • When exciting or unique work is over,  there is a tendency to feel let down, and routine work seems blah by comparison. When employees believe their daily work is crucial work, challenging projects are not seen as necessary to stay committed to the organization and the job. 

Observe and inspect regular, routine work as though it is as important as big, unique and challenging tasks. those tasks–because it is. Reinforce the value of those tasks with employees and let them know you notice and appreciate their daily work. Make it as worthwhile and satisfying for employees to do routine tasks well, as it is for them to accept and fulfill a great challenge.

You may never be responsible for leading the battle that saves the kingdom, or riding with the message that saves the battle, or even shoeing the horse that carries the rider. Nevertheless, do not underestimate the value of being the one who effectively monitors the supply of nails.

December 7th, 2008 Posted by | Supervision and Management | 8 comments


  1. Nice blog site, I am a newer blogger and I was searching the web for ideas. I just thought I would leave a comment to say so.

    Comment by Jenny R. | December 8, 2008

  2. Hi Tina! This is so true and is a good reminder about the value of routine work. Thanks! Phyllis

    Comment by P.A.H. | December 8, 2008

  3. This reminds me of the parable of the talents in the New Testament, with “talents” representing our daily tasks. Doing those tasks well makes us ready for the big tasks. Good thoughts, as usual. D.

    Comment by Don R. | December 8, 2008

  4. Tina, thank you again for the great presentation at the RMGPA conference. You were delightful and also very helpful to me personally. I’m happy to be introduced to your website, which I can see will be good reading.

    Comment by A Fan | December 8, 2008

  5. I was given the link to your site by Sharon DeNovellis, with SSA. I’ve spent about an hour looking at articles and photos and I’ve really enjoyed it. Thanks for your work!

    Comment by Kerry K. | December 9, 2008

  6. Tina says: Thanks to all of you for your comments. I enjoy having people write a note.

    And (I’m saying this for the benefit of others) if you don’t want your name mentioned, or don’t want your comment published, just let me know. I nearly always reduce names to initials anyway, but I can eliminate them entirely. The important thing is to comment!

    Comment by TLR | December 15, 2008

  7. Cal Ripkin made history by doing his routine work well every day, and just by showing up.

    Comment by Jennifer | August 1, 2009

  8. Tina says: Thank you Jennifer for the comment about”The Ironman”, Cal Ripkin, Jr. I don’t know much about sports, but both Cal Ripkin Sr. and Cal Ripkin, Jr. are often mentioned in motivational material.

    Let me add to your thoughts by quoting Woody Allen who said, “80% of success is showing up.” Woody is perhaps not the most admirable person in every area, but certainly has had success in many ways.

    Thanks again!

    Comment by TLR | August 1, 2009

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