“Who would win in a fight betwen a Moose and a Bison?” says my then-six year old son after our visit to Yellowstone.
Being as this is the 768th question of that type that he’s asked in the last 5 minutes, I’ve had some practice answering.
“Which one is bigger?” I ask.
“Yes the moose is definitely taller. Which one weighs more?”
“Okay…well then the Bison probably wins the fight. In animals, the heavier animal almost always wins a 1-on-1 fight.”
30 seconds later: “Who would win in a fight between a Fox and a Bobcat?”
Rather than subjecting you further to 392 more conversations about animals, I’d like to talk about organizational survival strategies. Interestingly, they seem to largely match up with animal kingdom survival strategies.
Essentially, animal survival strategies come down to one of the following:
Be big/tough enough that you’re hard to kill.
Be quick enough that the big killer can’t catch you.
Swarm, so that even if some of you die, you still succeed.
Have special skills (poison, shell, etc.)
Making a small nimble rabbit work with a turtle shell just isn’t going to work.
So what about organizations?
Some organizations are like hippos. They’re just big. Because they’re big, and strong, and tough…nothing much messes with them.
Other organizations are like rabbits. They dance and dodge, bob and weave, and move quickly to handle issues. But they have to, because they’re small.
Other organizations try lots and lots of things. Most of them fail, and occasionally something works, often very well.
And still other organizations become unreasonably good at one or two things, and focus only on that.
What folks seem to have a big problem with is: they want organizations to do things that the organization itself isn’t designed to do. They want rabbit-like fast organizations to be highly resilient. They want large, hippo-organizations to bob, weave and dance….and implement Agile type speeds.
Have we considered whether if you’ve got a hippo, asking it to dance (on land) is a rather absurd proposition. If you get the hippo in a tutu, we should probably call that a win, and go home.