Following is a short corporate fable I have written about the biggest obstacle to change – the battle for mediocrity.
The queen called her knights to join her at the round table in her conference room for yet another meeting.
“Knights, it is time for us to change. Our kingdom is under attack from more prosperous lands, and we must do something differently to ensure I, meaning we, are not overthrown. We have many knights, yet much work is not getting done. What thoughts have you?”
Knight Verbose, always the first to speak, looked up and said: “I think the obvious problem is a lack of servants for the knights. We are in meetings all day discussing our plans, and the work is not getting done. If we only had more servants, we would be doing the right things.” The other knights nodded in agreement.
“What work would get done if you had more servants?” asked the queen.
“Whatever work our bold and brilliant queen would want done,” answered Knight Verbose.
The queen puffed out her chest and held her head high, buoyed by the compliment. “I definitely want more of my very important work done, so that sounds like a good plan. What else can we do?”
Knight Fault-Finder, who thought very highly of himself, spoke up: “Well, I think once we have more servants to do the day-to-day work, we will need to be elevated in our status. Many of us need new titles to properly reflect how many more people we will have working for us. We would like to be called Senior Knights, which will make you a much more acclaimed queen.”
The queen considered this carefully, liked the thought of having more senior people reporting to her, and smiled. “Since there is going to be so much accomplished,” she said, “I think that is doable. What else?”
“Well,” said Knight Empire-Builder at the end of the table, “if we have higher titles then we will need to have knights reporting directly to us. I think we should have another meeting to determine the number of knights we think we might need to run the servants.”
Knight Change-Warrior, who had been quiet for a while, finally spoke up: “Um, it sounds like we’re going to have more servants, but what will we be DOING differently to achieve greatness? I have some ideas, but they’re going to require that we get out there with our servants and see what they need from us.” The knights began to grumble, and Knight Wolf leaned toward the queen and said, “Knight Change-Warrior has always been a problem. We’re doing great things together, and his sour attitude is going to ruin everything.”
The queen said: “I am glad that you have some great ideas, Knight Change-Warrior, and I would love to hear them at another time. But, right now, I think we stick with our current solution.”
At that they were dismissed. The knights were all elevated to their new Senior Knight status, and a huge amount of gold was used to hire new knights and servants. Eventually, the queen met with Knight Change-Warrior but found his ideas too cumbersome. She didn’t elevate his status, telling him that he should spend more time with the servants.
One year later their kingdom was invaded. The newly hired knights ran to the kingdoms from which they originally came, and the Senior Knights were left to fight. Since their time had been spent in meetings for the past year, they were no longer skilled fighters. The queen was captured and put in a high tower away from her kingdom.
Knight Change-Warrior continued to think strategically and was hired by a queen who valued action in another Kingdom.
Knight Change-Warrior and his new queen posted their motto in the Knight’s conference room:
Mediocrity is an hour glass that marks the eventual death of a corporation.