Those “small things”

Today I start by unbundling the wisdom in three proverbs that highlight the  need to be on the lookout and take care of “those small things” that may at times appear insignificant  in our life or businesses.

Kũira nguraro nĩ kũimbĩrwo: If you fail to address or treat what may appear to be a small insignificant injury you may find yourself with a nasty pestering wound.

Njamba ĩrũũndagwo nĩ mũcakwe: A maize cob, carelessly left on the path can bring down even the mightiest warrior.

Mbĩa ĩminaga ndarwa na igutha: A rat, small as it is, will finish even the biggest cow hide – one small nibble at a time.

These three Kikuyu proverbs, though having slightly different nuances, caution us to be always vigilant in our personal lives or in business. Ignoring or not taking care of some of the “small things” that could be happening in our lives or business could lead to personal disaster or failure of business. The one on ignoring a “small wound” is especially applicable in business where management ignores some practices that may appear to be insignificant only to realize later that the cumulative effect of such practices has negatively affected the business. This proverb is similar to the English one; a stitch in time saves nine.

The one on the “cob bringing down the mighty warrior” will happen if the warrior is not paying attention to the path he is walking along. It is telling us to always be scanning our environment. Indeed in life or in business one needs to be constantly on the lookout on what is happening in their environment. In business planning for instance, one needs to do a SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Treats) analysis of their business. After the initial analysis, a business has to constantly keep revisiting the SWOTs, especially the opportunities and threats. In today’s world where technology is changing, ever so fast, any business that is not constantly looking out and analyzing the effect of technological changes is unlikely to thrive.

The one on the “small rate eating a whole hide” is telling us that we can achieve big things by taking action, however small an action may appear. This is similar to the English proverb  “take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves” which implies that if you take care of little things one at a time, they can add up to big things.  It is also similar to the Chinese one that says that “a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step.” The proverb also cautions us to not ignore small losses such as those resulting from pilferage by staff. If not checked such “small pilferage” can hold back a business or even bring it down.


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