Aesops Management Fables
Authors: Dick McCann and Jan Stewart
(151 pages, paperback)
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Animal Stories This section of the book deals with individual managers and their behavior. Each chapter is split into three parts. The first part is an animal story. The animals chosen were those with characteristics similar to the manager being portrayed. The second part is a case study based on real-life problems that many managers face in their day-to-day tasks. The third part discusses guidelines that might be employed to overcome the managerial deficiencies described in the first two parts.. The two stories portray the same problems in different ways. The animal story uses a fantasy scenario with descriptive language designed to aid internal visualization. The management story is more of the 'case study' genre and has been written in a factual and credible manner suitable for practical teaching. The messages in each story are similar but the two different formats will ensure that the underlying meaning will be interpreted by most audiences. When using the stories in a workshop situation, a mixture of the two types can be used to ensure maximum impact. The third part of each story makes the underlying principles explicit. For individual readers, our comments will enable you to reflect on your own management style. For workshop facilitators, the guidelines will help you lead group discussions for initiating behavioral change in managers. Chapter Two
The Frog Life had been peaceful in the billabong. Everyone got on with their own lives. All were happy to believe that the world stopped at the edge of the water. Only the frogs came and went. Everyone else stayed happily in the warm, calm water. Occasionally, a new fish or insect would be washed into the little billabong from the small creek that kept the water fresh and moving, but little else disturbed their tranquil existence. There were many families of frogs who lived in and around the billabong. They used the pond as a nursery for their eggs. The young tadpoles had a safe home in which to mature. It was springtime. The tadpoles were sprouting legs and learning to leave the water for short spells. It seemed no time at all before they were perfect little frogs. One of the young frogs was a lively, inquisitive green frog with the biggest eyes you can imagine. Now he was old enough, he spent his days jumping around the billabong, discovering all the interesting nooks and crannies. Their occupants were not at all pleased to see him, but he didn't worry about that. He was having fun. He liked to see where they lived and was quite unaware that his continual visits and interruptions were spoiling their once halcyon days in the billabong. As he matured, he went on forays up and down the creek, poking his nose into everyone's business and making it difficult for others to get on with their daily lives. One day he found this wonderful new billabong, where there was no-one else living. It was surrounded by large trees which let their branches dip into the water. He was enchanted. It was perfect for him and his young frog friends. They could set up a new home here without the interference of any of the older frogs. He was so excited he could hardly wait to get back and gather his friends together. He hopped off home, his heart pounding with the great news. On his return, he told all the young frogs what he had seen. He described this new paradise in glowing terms and persuaded them all that it could be their new home. They would have tremendous fun and he listed all the thrilling things they could accomplish if they were on their own. Convinced he was right and this wonderful place must exist, the young frogs followed their new leader to the bounteous billabong at the other side of the forest. They arrived and were delighted to find that the place of their dreams did exist. It was a truly awesome abode for the young frogs. Without hesitation, they jumped into the water and investigated all the banks looking for comfortable places where they could live. Within twelve hours they were all asleep, never to awaken again. No one had thought to ask why the pond was uninhabitated. Effluent from the chemical factory further up the creek contained poisonous chemicals which had polluted the pond, killing all the previous inhabitants. Had the young frog and his friends investigated further, they would have seen that the trees were dying and their branches were dipping into the pond as they wilted. The water was a mysterious deep blue. Look before you leap Robert Bentley was a tall, angular man with a large nose and a keen stare. He was promoted to the position of operations manager and took with him a reputation for great organizing skills. Robert was a very structured person who could organize a project and set it in motion in the shortest possible time. In previous positions within the company, he had earned the reputation of being a good leader and systems expert. As operations manager, he had to not only organize the project, but also assess its viability and see it through to the final stage. Each tender the company submitted was Robert's responsibility. He had two other managers who would liaise with him on the tender, but the final decisions were left with him. His fist tender was for the restoration of a bridge in a rural village. The bridge was built in the 1960s and needed painting and resurfacing. Robert and his colleagues met to discuss the tender. Despite objections from the other managers, Robert decided that there was no need for a survey, as the bridge was of minimal length and the majority of the data was on the old sketches. The tender was submitted to the local council and approved. Robert was delighted. Now he could do the part of his job which he preferred. He put the task into action, organizing the latest state-of-the-art metal paint for the bridge structure, as well as the work teams to paint and resurface the bridge. It wasn't until the teams arrived on site that the situation was realized. The bridge, although mainly metal, had at least 40 per cent of its structure composed of large wooden beams, to which the metal paint would not adhere. In addition, the surface was part cement, not completely Tarmacadam, as Robert had assumed. Robert's tender was much lower than the others and had been automatically accepted, as the company had an excellent reputation for superior work. Robert was shocked that the bridge was not of the construction usual for that period. had he listened to his colleagues and surveyed the bridge before making a tender, he would have prevented the extra costs incurred by the company. Robert was able to rectify all the problems that had arisen and quickly organized alternative materials to complete the contract within the tender period. His excellent organizing skills helped him pull the company out of the predicament without damaging their reputation. The company, however, made a loss on the project. Robert retained his job but was careful from that point on. In future, he always made sure that he had all the necessary data before making decisions. Frog Managers Many managers like Robert Bentley have frog-like tendencies. They forget the age-old advice to 'look before you leap'. Under the pressures of modern business where competition is keen, they have to make quick decisions. This need for quick decisions develops into an action-oriented style of management. However, unless the correct information is gathered, then decisions will be made on incorrect data. Making assumptions based on minimum information, maximizes the probability of errors. It is important to spend time making sure that all the data has been gathered and that any assumptions are based on facts. Time spent in gathering information at an early stage is often repaid many times over by a reduction in the number of poor decisions. To do a job effectively, a manager must have access to all the relevant information associated with the work of the team. This means reading reports, books, journals and newspapers, as well as attending conferences and seminars to ensure that the team is up-to-date with the latest information. Information can also be gathered through networking, where regular meetings are held with people from other organizations. This is why many people regard membership of clubs, professional societies, and business organizations as an important part of their job. Gathering information can be very time consuming, which is why it is sometimes ignored by frog managers. However the information technology revolution is changing all this and the explosion that is taking place through the establishment of such computer networks as the Internet. Learning how to use these systems will save managers time and give access to current information worldwide. Tips for Frog Managers
In the short term Use the 5WH technique (5'W' questions and one 'H' (how) question) when faced with a decision:
What information do you need?
Why do you need it?
Where will you get it from?
Who will get it?
When do you need it?
How will you get it?
Setting aside time to read, research and be aware of the latest developments in your field
Allocating time to meet with others to learn what they are thinking and planning
Considering what information you should share with others to foster a good information flow
Consulting key stakeholders on any projects to ensure that their concerns and ideas are taken into account before any decisions are made.
Reduces the stress you need endure.