Dead horses: 5 reasons to ride
“When you discover that you are riding dead horses, the best strategy is to dismount.”
Most of you know this saying of the Native Indians (if not, read this hilarious blog post to catch up). Still, many dead horses are ridden in companies daily. There must be reasons. Here are my favorite ones:
It is dead, Jim!
1. “This is the way we do it. This is the way we have always been doing it!”
This type of rider does not even care. Riding this horse is the only thing he can imagine. He will probably continue going through the motions even if you pry the dead horse away from him. We all know this type of person. But remember: you will have a future only if you can imagine a different present.
2. “The alternative to riding this horse is unthinkable!”
This equestrian probably suspects something is wrong. But she is just too afraid of the thought to check. Maybe she can push it off just a while longer…
3. “I was too busy to notice the horse is dead!”
Funny, right. Because a dead horse does get you nowhere fast. Thus it seems like a good idea to check from time to time. Even on a tight schedule. But of cause lack of time is #1 excuse for not doing the right thing, right? So maybe it really is a case of wrong priorities. Or laziness. Or fear (see above).
4. “I can’t do anything about it anyway”
This cowgirl has come to think that she doesn’t have to power to change horses. Which may be true. Or it may be an excuse (see above).
5. “I am better off pretending!”
This clever gaucho has discovered that he can only lose by blowing the whistle on the horse. He knows that there is probably somebody responsible for its death. It may well be him. Or it is somebody else who will give him hell for spilling the beans. Or he will be blamed anyway. So he opts to keep quiet about the state of the horse.
Dead horses rot from the head down too
If as a manager you face the problem often here is the bad news: it is probably your fault! Here are a couple of things you can try to make it better:
1. Set goals
If too many dead horses go undiscovered it is probably because you did not set goals for the race. With the right (intermediate) objectives you will find your dead horses eventually. Even better: you will disperse hope that they can remain unnoticed.
2. Cut the crap
Sorry! But if you start confronting riders with the fact their horses are dead you will get loads of reasons. Don’t accept excuses. Or you will get more of them. Make clear it is everybody’s obligation to report a dead horse ASAP.
3. Be grateful for bad news!
If you do the things above people will undoubtably start to report problems. That is the time to remember the obvious: even if you don’t like the news, always remember to reward the messenger. Otherwise people will stop reporting. You think you already do this? Ask your team!
Help the traditionalist to understand there are valid alternatives to established behaviour. Help the fearful employees to understand it is best to face their fears. Help the ‘busy’ people to improve their self management. Help the fatalists to grasp their power. Protect the whistleblower from revenge. In one word: do your job as a leader!