A Bedtime Fable for Turnaround CEOs and Disgruntled Staff
One evening the Chinese Emperor was conversing with his Commander in Chief. He was renowned as the greatest military strategist of his time with amazingly disciplined troops. He could make even elephants dance! The general, in response to a question, answered that the real credit for his victories lay with his troops.
The Emperor asked him how he inculcated his troops with their incredible discipline. His concubines could certainly use it. He had trouble getting them to pay proper attention to him. Half the time, they´d just stand around and giggle. The Emperor continued with a challenge to the general to teach his concubines discipline.
The general declined. The Emperor persisted. The general told the Emperor he really should not request him to do this. It was inappropriate. The Emperor insisted. It was his imperial command.
Reluctantly, the general turned his attention to the 50-odd concubines then lounging around in the emperor´s quarters. In a low, troubled voice he said they would begin with something quite basic, really very simple. He asked them please to line up and stand quietly. Giggling, chatting and laughing noisily away, they put themselves into a wavy sort of clumpy row.
The general nodded to his Master-at-Arms. The grizzled veteran strode forward and grabbed a concubine by the arm, yanking her out of the group. "I think this one is the worst." The general again nodded. The Master-of-Arms drew his sword and with a single, violent swing decapitated her. Her head rolled on the floor and her body crumpled to the ground, the headless neck spurting rivers of blood.
The general grimly looked over the rest of the young concubines who were now totally silent, numb with shock. He softly spoke, almost whispering, "Now, let us please try that again."
Decapitating certain board members and senior managers, and here and there a union leader -- carried live on prime time TV -- would send an unforgettable message to the rest of management and the work force. Some once great companies that have long since departed could still be thriving today.
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