I’ve been thinking of a leadership metaphor; it involves a stock pot and a wooden spoon. The steel pot is filled with water. It needs to be emptied. And the only tool we have is the wooden spoon.
I’m a simple guy with a bias toward action, so my inclination is to grab the spoon and get to work, one spoonful at a time, scooping the water out of the pot. It will take some effort, won’t be particularly spectacular, but the job seems clear, the resources limited, and we’re wasting time as long as we aren’t draining the pot. As long as we stick with it, the job will be completed.
While this all seems so very simple, there are alternative leadership approaches.
There are those that would want to do some figurin’ before getting underway. Even though the work seems simple, they want to know more before getting underway. Determine that each spoonful, adjusting for spillage, averages to be about 94% of a tablespoon… determine that there is 2.7 liters of water in the stock pot… do the math… adjust for evaporation… factor in breaks… you get the picture.
A slight twist on the “study it” approach is the “document it” approach by which you simply write up the findings of the “study it” approach and put it on your shelf, bound nicely in a three-ring binder. The satisfaction of filing the report replaces the satisfaction of finishing the job.
If this really needs to be done then there ought to be a better way. Don’t they know that we need more resources than this wooden spoon? If they were serious about getting this work done, they would have given me better tools and more staff. I’m not doing anything until they make this easier.
I have a better idea… a more spectacular idea… an idea that will be far less work and will be seen by all as brilliant. All I need to do is light the wooden spoon on fire, set up the stock pot over the fire, and the water will boil, turn to steam, and “presto.” Of course the fire from the spoon barely warmed the water, let alone brought it to a boil. The fire was spectacular, and it was an amusing idea, but we still have a pot full of water and now we don’t even have the spoon.
Can you think of others?