Persistent Joke #5

Similar to the Twelve Days of Christmas, we are drawing special emphasis to Number 5!

This one comes to us via Henry Mintzberg at McGill University. Karl Moore has a very popular cover version of this joke.

Here is the joke:

A group of soon-to-be freshly minted MBAs are sent on their final program project where they leave the world of case studies and simulations. They are to test their skills on a “live patient” as they analyze a real organization and provide strategic counsel to improve their future competitiveness.

Through a family connection, they start to work on a mid-level professional orchestra.

Sound strategic analysis tells the group that one high-potential strategy for “regional service providers” is to focus on efficiency in delivery, which can create the case flow required to acquire and grow. After careful and thorough analysis, the group reports back with observations and strategic recommendations. Highlights include:

Under the heading Talent Effectiveness:

  • The group seems to be performing mostly on evenings and weekends. Payroll is a major expense for such services and we are concerned that you are paying a premium for work outside of regular business hours.
  • Performances tend to be 2 or 3 hours, several times per month, with summers off. Operations Management thinking around “batch processing” will suggest that grouping performances together can curtail costs for set up and take down.

Under the heading Technology Deployment:

  • Some of the instruments appear very outdated, with one violin being several hundred years old. A comprehensive equipment refresh would take advantage of new materials that require much less maintenance and, in many cases, weigh a great deal less than older instruments.
  • Audio technology to amplify sound could mean that some of the sections that currently employ several people—who, by the way, are often playing EXACTLY the same thing—could be reduced to one player per part.

NOTE: This latter recommendation will allow additional seating for audience members on the stage. (The group attributed this insight to Blue Ocean Strategy.)

Owing to extreme tact, the group was able to access position-level compensation. This had them create a special subheading Immediate Next-level Impact:

The conductor’s remuneration is the highest of the group, although the function of this position during performances seemed to be largely to keep time and cue musicians. The group provided contact information for a classmate developer who would create an app that could both keep time and provide instant messaging cues through small electric shock so as not to provide audio interference.

Needless to say, when leadership of the Orchestra politely rejected ALL of this strategic advice, our group took it as evidence that status quo decision makers often reject “out of the box thinking” only to come to regret that decision later on when they inevitably cease to operate competitively.

Here is the point:

In many workplace interactions, let’s be mindful of three important elements for those participating:

  • Level of understanding of the situation,
  • Level of insight into workable improvement, and
  • Level of confidence to share thoughts.

Misalignment between the last one and the first two creates unfortunate situations where EITHER people speak without knowing what they are talking about OR they do not speak when they really should.