Byron's Babbles

Getting Nowhere!

pineproc15I learned about a creature that I didn’t know much about in Lesson #9 of 52 Leadership Lessons: Timeless Stories For The Modern Leader by John Parker Stewart. The lesson used the analogy of the Processionary Caterpillar. You know how I love analogies and this one is a good one for what happens in all organizations at some time or another. These cool little creatures feed on pine needles. The interesting part is, though, that they travel like a train with their eyes half shut, head to tail fitted right against each other. So, wherever the first one goes (let’s call her the leader) the others go blindly. Are you getting the analogy here? According to the lesson, you can place them in a circle and it can take up to 10 hours for them to realize they are going nowhere. Again, are you catching the powerful analogy?

“Don’t become processionary. Question the status quo. Work smarter, not harder.” ~ John Parker Stewart

We all have become Processionary Caterpillars at some time or another. Either as the IMG_1449leader, or one of the followers. This is something I have called Lazy Leadership. You can read about it here. The big thing to keep in mind here is to avoid blindly, without question, performing tasks the “way it has always been done,” with no regard on how to improve or change for the betterment of the organization. I actually was discussing this last night at one of our family events after I had spoken to some of our teachers about ways to improve some processes. Our teachers are very talented and knowledgeable, and we need to continue to find ways to tap into that knowledge gained. We can then take that knowledge and improve as a learning organization.

img_2083If we find ourselves resembling the Processionary Caterpillar more than we would first think or want we need to make adjustments. If you fear that you share some of the style of the Processionary Caterpillar, here are some questions Stewart suggested to ask:

  • Why are we doing this?
  • Don’t answer with, “That’s the way we have always done it.”
  • Don’t ever do something because, “We’ve always done it that way.”

We need to avoid mistaking activity for accomplishment. We do not want to act like the Processionary Caterpillar. We possess an intelligence that enables us to be different from all the lower forms of life. Be all you can be by learning from the pitiful Processionary Caterpillar. My takeaway is that we need to assume there is always a better way. That does not mean we redo everything, or we would never get anything done, but we do need to question the status quo. Remember, if better is possible then good is not enough.

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