As in Gulliver’s Travel, so too in organisations


In the story Gulliver’s Travels, Gulliver washes up in Lilliput where he is tied up by tiny ropes. Of significance is that Gulliver can easily snap each strand of rope, but when they are used in concert with each other, they can hold down the giant that he is. The solution to this is to cut each strand one by one until they collectively cannot hold the giant down and Gulliver can be free of them.

This story can easily be a metaphor for organizational stasis. Each strand of the rope can be a bad habit that the organisation has adopted. In and of itself, the habit is small and can be easily overcome by the organisation. But it is not overcome. The organisation simply accepts it, thinking that it is so insignificant that it can snap the habit easily. Yet each time the organisation doesn’t do anything to overcome the habit, the more it gets a stranglehold on the organisation until it comes to such a state that the organisation is totally incapacitated by its bad habits; quite like Gulliver being tied down by the many tiny ropes.

And an organisation has many ropes tying itself down. Here are some typical SME ropes:

1. Keeping non-performing staff for fear of not being able to attract others;

2. Rewarding themselves with the latest car, or boat, or whatever big-ticket luxury item during good times, when they should be looking to reinvest into the company;

3. Refusing to cut back on expenses because it may make them “look bad”;

4. Fearful to pay well for good talent, all the while keeping a large pool of cheap under performers;

5. Relying too much on its first big break and not reinventing or renewing itself;

6. Not taking care of financials, letting pennies (ultimately becoming pounds) slip;

7. Micromanaging so much so that the whole organisation is stifled;

8. Poor, or outdated, business processes

9. Mismanaging vendors and suppliers

Do these sound familiar to you? Perhaps you too are like Gulliver, trapped on the sand by tiny ropes that can easily be overcome, yet have been strung up together to now tie you down? If so, then take out your knife and sever the ropes one by one. As you work to wrest back control from each habit, you will find yourself getting better, becoming more nimble, and getting on track to becoming great.

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