• 3 minute read


    This week, another edition of “Mismanagement Quizzo.” This time around, it’s all Uber, all the time:

    (3 points for each correct answer; 1 point for each bonus question.)


    1. In an interview with GQ Magazine in 2014, this ride-sharing company’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, jokingly referred to his company as “Boob-er” because of the company’s capacity to help him attract women. What is the name of this ride-sharing company?

    Bonus question: Kalanick’s first venture, a file-sharing site similar to Napster that he launched in the 1990s, imploded for what reason?


    2. In January of this year, this ride-sharing company infuriated thousands of customers by servicing New York’s JFK airport during a taxi strike. The strike, called by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, was intended to facilitate protests against President Trump’s executive order barring travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S. What is this ride-sharing company’s name?

    Bonus question: This action by the company prompted the creation of what Twitter hashtag?


    3. According to an article in the New York Times, the CEO of this ride-sharing company, Travis Kalanick, resigned from President Trump’s economic advisory council after being criticized by his own employees – some of whom felt that increasingly, there was a “personal cost” to being employed by the company. What is this ride-sharing company’s name?

    Bonus question: Until recently, deleting your account with this company was difficult for what reason?


    4. According to a recent article in Fortune Magazine, this ride-sharing company pledged to launch an “urgent” investigation into it’s policies after allegations of sexual harassment by a former employee. In February of this year, Susan Fowler alleged in a blog post that she had been propositioned by her manager while working as an SRE (Site Reliability Engineer) for the company. After presenting human resources with screenshots of inappropriate texts, her manager was given a “stern talking-to,” but not disciplined according to her post. Fowler was furthermore told it was this manager’s first offense, even though she later found out other female employees had already lodged similar complaints against him. Name the ride-sharing company Ms. Fowler worked for.

    Bonus question: In addition to supposedly being his first offense, what other reason did HR give Ms. Fowler for not firing or further disciplining this manager?


    5. This ride-sharing company’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, was recently caught arguing with one of the company’s drivers, a disagreement that was recorded using a dashboard camera. The footage, which was posted on YouTube, quickly went viral. Currently it has over 4 million views. What is this ride-sharing company’s name?

    Bonus question #1: What can Mr. Kalanick be heard saying just before he exits the vehicle?

    Bonus question #2: True or false? Mr. Kalanick later apologized for the encounter, and his behavior.


    6. On March 26th of this year, this ride-sharing company announced a charitable initiative with a full-page ad in The New York Times. The program, called “Round Up & Donate,” will automatically round up your fare to the nearest whole dollar and donate the difference to issues “impacting everyone everywhere, from climate change to the pursuit of equality.” What is this ride-sharing company’s name?



    Let me know how you did (hopefully you’ll score at least 15 points). Otherwise, I’ll see you next Friday…





    1. Uber. Bonus question answer: The site, called “Scour,” faced a $250 billion copyright-infringement lawsuit.

    2. Uber. Bonus question answer: #DeleteUber.

    3. Uber. Bonus question answer: According to an article by Mike Isaac, for a time the company had no automated/computerized method for deleting accounts. Each one had to be removed manually by an Uber employee.

    4. Uber. Bonus question answer: The company’s HR department claimed they didn’t want to ruin the career of a “high performer.”

    5. Uber. Bonus question answer #1: Kalanick can be heard saying: “Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame every single thing in their life on someone else. Good luck.” Bonus question answer #2: True – Mr. Kalanick did later apologize, adding that he needed to “grow up.”

    6. Nope…it was Lyft.



    All citations retrieved April 20, 2017.


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  • April 14, 2017

    7 minute read


    The key to succeeding in business is really quite simple.

    Ask your employees what they want…and then give it to them.

    That’s certainly the opinion of management researchers David Sirota, Louis Mischkind, and Michael Meltzer. As I pointed out in the last post in this series, in The Enthusiastic Employee (2005) they offer compelling evidence to suggest that companies profit by, in their words, “giving their employees what they want.” A similar study by Rodd Wagner and James Harter of the Gallup Organization supports those findings.[1]

    But if this is true, why have so very few organizations (and managers) taken this simple message to heart?

    And make no mistake, employers are most certainly not giving their subordinates “what they want.” According to a recent study of the American workplace, only three in 10 employees feel they have the equipment and materials they need to do their work right.[2] Similarly, only three in 10 employees strongly agreed with the statement that at work, their opinions seem to count.[3]

    In other words, not only are most employees not getting what they need (much less want) to do their jobs to the best of their ability, when they do ask, apparently managers aren’t even willing to listen.

    So for this week’s post, a closer look at why this is.

    What’s keeping managers from doing what it takes to succeed?


    Why is your boss your boss?

    Ask employees what they want? And then give it to them?

    If you’re a manager, that probably sounds like a strange (or potentially disastrous) idea. In fact, it’s likely you feel your organizational role is to do the exact opposite of this.

    I thought my employees were supposed to listen to me, you’re probably thinking, not the other around?

    This is in fact what most managers are led to believe. They are the ones in charge, so subordinates do the “listening” and “obeying.” Managers, on the other hand, do the “telling” and “directing.” It’s as simple as that.

    But why is this? Why are managers “in charge”?

    Why is your boss your boss?

    Well, if you’re like me, it’s probably not hard to come up with an answer (or three) to this question.

    For starters, your manager is your employer. He or she may not have hired you personally, but your manager can surely fire you. So if you consistently don’t do what he or she says, you may find yourself out of a job.

    But managers are also seen as having “authority” for another important reason. They will often know more than their subordinates about the work they do, or job they hold. Consider the sales manager who was once a top salesperson him- or herself, for instance. That experience and demonstrated ability to succeed in the position makes this person perhaps ideally suited to guide and assist those who report him or her.  In fact, it is often the case that an individual will not be considered for a promotion to management until he or she has mastered all of the skills expected of those he or she will be managing. Part of manager’s authority, in other words, may derive from his or her expertise, skills, experience, or greater organizational knowledge.

    These are both good reasons for putting managers in charge. There is, however, one other worth mentioning – and one that you may not have thought about in a while (if at all).

    Your manager is your boss because that’s what the organization chart tells you.


    Pyramid Scheme

    For those of you who are unfamiliar, an organization chart (or org chart) is one of those funny, pyramid-shaped diagrams with all the little boxes and lines on it. For example:

    Figure 1.


    Perhaps you’ve seen one like it before. But if not, the boxes represent individual employees, or specific organizational roles, while the solid lines connecting them indicate who reports to who. The person(s) at the very top—usually the CEO, business owner(s), company founder(s), or board of directors—is understood to have the most organizational power, while those at the bottom (often the company’s so-called “frontline” employees) are considered to have the least. Each employee is typically assigned only one manager, but managers are not limited in the number of subordinates they might be expected to manage. So according to the org chart shown above in Figure 1, employees X and Y report to manager A, and employee Z reports to manager B. And both managers report to the CEO.[4]

    But to return to the broader point, since managers are above those they manage on this chart, they’re expected to do what their manager tells them to do.

    And most of us accept this.


    A “map”

    Organization charts didn’t just appear out of thin air, of course. According to business historian and Pulitzer Prize winner Alfred Chandler, the origins of this diagram can be traced back to the 19th Century, and the rise of the American railroads.

    As Chandler describes it, back in 1854 a man by the name of Daniel McCallum was appointed general superintendent of the New York and Erie Railroad. And at 500 miles, it was one of the world’s longest; it was not, however, the most profitable. The essential functions of coordinating the deliveries of freight and people, repairing cars and track, and monitoring the position of trains were vastly more complicated for the NYER than for other, smaller railroads – and therefore more expensive.[5]

    Nevertheless, McCallum felt that “other things being equal, a long (rail)road should be operated for less cost per mile than a short one.”[6] Because of this, he instituted a number of administrative policies and procedures aimed at capitalizing on NYER’s economies of scale, and improving its overall efficiency. This included drawing up an organizational “map” with which to better visualize its internal operations, various departments, and personnel.

    McCallum’s efforts were to prove successful. Profitability for the NYER did increase. As a result, other railroads began adopting many of McCallum’s administrative policies and techniques – including his organizational “map.” Henry Varnum Poor, editor of the American Railroad Journal at the time, is thought to have contributed to their popularity by selling copies of McCallum’s original for a dollar. And some of the earliest adopters of this new administrative tool included General Motors, DuPont, and Mitsubishi of Japan.[7]

    So it was that the organization chart was born.


    A picture is worth a thousand workers

    If McCallum’s “map” helped the NYER run more efficiently, it is probably not difficult to understand why.

    Org charts are perhaps ideally suited to describe how the work of an organization has been broken down into specialized tasks, and how those tasks are then to be coordinated with each other in order to achieve agreed upon organizational aims and goals. And to be sure, it is the effective execution of these two organizational concepts, specialization and coordination, that serves as the business model utilized by virtually every for-profit enterprise in existence.

    These two principles also have deep roots in economic theory.

    The idea of specialization is alluded to by Plato in The Republic, which was published around 380 B.C.[8] However, Adam Smith is widely considered to have been the first to fully recognize and articulate the importance of this concept, and the advantages it offers businesses and other for-profit enterprises. In The Wealth of Nations (1776), he notes that, other things being equal, several people working together, and each performing a unique, specialized task, are capable of producing more—often far more—than if those same individuals work alone and independently.[9]

    For instance, in his oft-repeated example[10] Smith observes that the production of metal pins can be increased dramatically if each step in the production process is performed by an individual dedicated to a single step, then passed along to someone else to perform the next. In this way, many more pins might be produced than if the same number of individuals were to perform every step themselves, making pins from start to finish. The advantages of doing things this way is two-fold, Smith observed. Efficiency can be increased because workers save time by not having to switch between tasks. And quality can be improved by assigning each worker to the step at which he or she is best.[11]

    But of course, it is not enough just to split up something like the production of metal pins into a number of discreet tasks. Care must be taken to insure that no critical step in the process is neglected, nor any effort unnecessarily duplicated. In other words, coordination is needed to fully realize the benefits of Smith’s concept of specialization. You wouldn’t want more than one person doing a particular step in the pin-making process if one or more other steps are being neglected, would you? Incomplete pins would begin to pile up. As a consequence, most organizations designate certain persons as being responsible for coordinating workers efforts in order to prevent this from happening. In this way the advantages of specialization might be fully realized.

    And today, the individuals responsible for such coordination are frequently referred to as “managers.”


    One hundred years of influence

    If there is any utility to an org chart, it seems it’s because they help management coordinate the all important work of their employees in the most efficient way possible.

    They also remind us that our boss is in charge.

    But as helpful as they might seem, rarely are org charts photocopied and circulated to the extent that they once were.[12] Make no mistake, however. Over a hundred years after McCallum first drew one for the NYER, the organization chart still influences how we talk, think, and behave at our places of work.

    For instance, you’ve probably heard of “moving up in the organization” or “climbing the corporate ladder” sometime in your professional career. Other similarly veiled references to org chart’s up/down pyramidal form include terms and phrases such as “top brass,” “upper management,” higher-ups,” “lateral move,” “oversee,” and “underlings.” Even “supervisor” and “subordinate” could be included in this list because the prefixes super- and sub- translate to “above” and “under,” respectively. When it comes to rank, power, and prestige, managers are considered to be both figuratively and literally “above” those they manage…and we behave accordingly.

    But if the org chart is really that influential—and useful—why then have they become so deeply unpopular over the years..?


    Next in the series: Not a pretty picture



    [1] 12, The Elements of Great Managing by Rodd Wagner and James K. Harter. 2006. New York: Gallup Press.

    [2] “State of the American Workplace.” The Gallup Organization. 2017, p. 102. (Available for free download by clicking here.)

    [3] Ibid., p. 112.

    [4] There are a couple other organizational concepts that derive from the organization charts that are worth a mention as well, and with which you may be familiar. For example, “span of control” refers to the total number of employees that report to any particular manager. (In Figure 1, Manager A’s span of control is two, for instance [employees X and Y].) “Chain of command” is determined by tracing upwards on the diagram through boxes connected by a solid line. (In Figure 1, Employee Z’s chain of command is ZàManager BàCEO.) This concept is helpful if you, as an employee, encounter an issue that, for whatever the reason, your own manager is unable to address or resolve.

    [5] Chandler, Jr., Alfred D. “Origins of the Organizational Chart,” Harvard Business Review, March-April, 1988, p.156-157.

    [6] Ibid., p.156-157.

    [7] Ibid., p.156-157.

    [8] Evers, Williamson M. “Specialization and the Division of Labor in the Social Thought of Plato and Rousseau,” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. IV, No. 4, (Winter 1980).

    [9] The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. 1776. Book 1: Chapter 1.

    [10] “What is so important about Adam Smith’s pin factory example?” at

    Quora.com. https://www.quora.com/What-is-so-important-about-Adam-Smiths-pin-factory-example. Retrieved April 13, 2017.

    [11] The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. 1776. Book 1: Chapter 1.

    [12] “Why don’t you publish your org charts?” by Phil Carron. Think Blog. December, 2010. https://www.thinkcompany.com/2010/12/why-dont-you-publish-your-org-charts/. Retrieved April 13, 2017.


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  • 2 minute read


    Hey, managers. I want to hear from you.

    That’s right. Instead of you putting up with what I have to say, this week I’d like to hear what’s on your mind. And here’s what I want to know:

    What do you want? 

    What would make your job easier, better, or more satisfying? What, in other words, is the one thing that would be of most help to you, as a manager?

    The reason I ask is because I’m not sure I really know.

    That may sound strange considering the nature of my blog, but most of what I understand about what actual, practicing managers want is  from my own (and admittedly limited) personal experience. And the rest is second-hand – much of it coming from reading management advice books already on the market. (And need I remind you, I’m not a fan of these texts.)

    Personally, I’ve just kind of assumed you want to become a better manager…or at least I did, when I was a manager. But is this true for the rest of you? Or is what you want more specific than that?

    For instance:

    • Do you want to get better at your job, or do you just want everyone (including people like me) to stop telling you what to do all the time..?
    • Would you like to know how to get more from your employees? Turn your mediocre performers into high performers, for example? Or perhaps you’d just rather be rid of all your under-performers? Or maybe you feel that your employees are simply too demanding in general, and you’d most like to see them take the initiative more often, and become more independent?
    • Or, perhaps you’d like to see your business/department/organization become more profitable? Or more creative, agile, or forward-thinking? Or perhaps more reliable? Or simply more competitive?
    • Or, maybe you’d just like it if your own boss were to get off your back once in a while, and let you do your job?


    So this is my question to you: What one thing would most help you?

    You can respond in the comment section below. Or, if you prefer, send me an email at insubordinate@insubordinationblog.com. Or just shoot me a tweet at @theinsubordin8, if that’s more convenient.

    Also, I hope you’ll forward this link to any other managers you might know; I’d like to hear from them too.

    And even if you’re not a manager yourself, but were at one time, let me know what you think (or why you left the role?). Or, if you’ve never really considered becoming a manager, I’d like to hear why managing doesn’t appeal to you.

    Thanks. I appreciate it.


    See you next Friday…



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  • 2 minute read


    This Friday, another installment in my “Paradox of the week” series of posts.

    These are instances in which a management author/”expert”/advice-giver/guru offers contradictory advice or makes paradoxical claims, typically without any awareness of having done so. [For more examples of this phenomena, click here. For an explanation as why this happens—and why it happens so often—check out my post “Why you can throw out that management advice book” (Parts 1,2&3).]

    For today’s edition, two examples from the work of Henri Fayol, a 19th Century French mining engineer and executive.

    Fayol, along with Frederick Winslow Taylor, is considered to be one of the founding fathers of modern management methods. In 1916, he published his seminal work on the subject, General and Industrial Management, which has been referred to as “the first complete theory of management.”[1] It is from this text that I offer the following paradoxical assertions for your consideration:


    • On page 37, Fayol writes of organizational “order” and its importance: “A diagram [organization chart] representing the entire premises divided up [my emphasis] into as many sections as there are employees responsible facilitates considerably the establishing and control of order.” And yet on page 40, he insists “Dividing enemy forces to weaken them is clever, but dividing one’s own team is a grave sin…”
    • On page 33 Fayol argues, “Each employee, intentionally or unintentionally, puts something of himself [sic] into the transmission and execution of orders… He does not operate merely as cog in the machine.” But later (p. 35), he has this to say: “…unless the sentiment of the general interest be constantly revived by higher authority…each section tends to regard itself as its own aim and end and forgets that it is only a cog in the machine…”


    See you next Friday.




    [1] Shafritz, Jay M., and J. Steven Ott. Classics in Organization Theory (Fifth Edition). 2001. Harcourt College Publishers, Philadelphia, PA), p. 10.


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  • 5 minute read


    This week, I’d like to acknowledge the first anniversary of the passing of engineer Bob Ebeling.

    Mr. Ebeling—who died last year on March 21st, at the age of 89—was one of the Morton-Thiokol engineers who tried to warn NASA that the O-rings he helped design for their space shuttles weren’t safe at cooler temperatures. As we all know, the shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after take off on a brisk January morning for this very reason, killing all 7 crew members.

    I mention this today not just to pay my belated respects to a fellow engineer and scientist. For me, Mr. Ebeling’s story is also a powerful—and sober—reminder of just what can be at stake when we talk about management, management’s decisions, and the consequences for those affected by them.


    “The Challenger is going to blow up.”

    These are words Mr. Ebeling (pronounced EBB-ling) said to his daughter, Leslie, as they drove to the headquarters of his employer, the aerospace contractor Morton-Thiokol, to watch the Challenger’s launch.

    He then added, “Everyone is going to die.”[1]

    If anyone could have known this for certain, it would have been Ebeling. Having helped design the shuttle’s O-rings, he was well aware of their limitations – one of which was poor performance at low temperatures. To bring attention to the problem, Ebeling had gone so far as to circulate a memo within Morton-Thiokol with the subject heading “Help!”, but to no avail.[2] And the day before Challenger’s launch, Ebeling and his colleagues argued passionately for a postponement in conference calls with NASA managers at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. In the end, however, they were overruled – both by NASA, and their own managers.[3]

    This decision of course had terrible consequences. Not only did seven astronauts lose their lives, millions of schoolchildren were traumatized as they witnessed the death of Christa McAuliffe—who would have the first schoolteacher in space—play out on live television.

    But no one, it seems, took it harder than Mr. Ebeling.

    According to a touching obituary written by William Grimes of The New York Times, Ebeling left the engineering profession entirely following the accident, and was thought to have never fully recovered. In 1987, he told the Houston Chronicle, “I have headaches. I cry. I have bad dreams. I go into a hypnotic trance almost daily.” And in an interview with Howard Berkes of NPR on the 30th anniversary of the disaster, Ebeling said:

    I think this was one of the mistakes that God made. He shouldn’t have picked me for that job. I don’t know, but next time I talk to him, I’m going to ask him, ‘Why? You picked a loser.’


    “A kind of Russian roulette…”

    According to the Rogers Commission, the body created by then President Ronald Reagan to investigate the matter, the Challenger disaster was indeed the result of a failed O-ring on the shuttle’s solid rocket booster, just as Ebeling had warned.[4]

    But management, they felt, was also responsible.

    According to the commission’s findings, NASA and Morton-Thiokol had known of the O-ring problem—and the potentially catastrophic consequences of their failure—as far back 1977. Serious O-ring erosion had also been observed on the second shuttle mission—that of the Columbia—in 1981, but it still was not addressed.[5] In fact, after repeated launches with no major incident, it seems that NASA and Morton-Thiokol simply concluded that the issue had resolved itself. As the commission wrote in its report:

    “The Space Shuttle’s Solid Rocket Booster problem began with the faulty design of its joint and increased as both NASA and contractor management first failed to recognize it as a problem, then failed to fix it and finally treated is as an acceptable flight risk.”[6]

    Other poor decisions and practices by management were also cited by the commission:

    “The Commission is troubled by what appears to be a propensity of management at Marshall [Space Flight Center] to contain potentially serious problems and to attempt to resolve them internally rather than communicate them forward.”[7]

    They also singled out for criticism Morton-Thiokol’s decision to ignore the warnings of their own engineers:

    “…Thiokol Management reversed its position and recommended the launch [of the Challenger], at the urging of Marshall contrary to the views of its engineers in order to accommodate a major customer.”[8]

    But Richard Feynman, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist—and a member of the Rogers Commission—was a bit more blunt in his assessment. He characterized NASA management’s decision making with respect to shuttle launches as playing “a kind of Russian roulette.”[9]


    Management matters

    To be sure, there is no doubt that those at NASA, Morton-Thiokol, and anyone else affiliated with shuttle program wanted anything other than to keep those astronauts as safe as humanly possible. Having worked in the sciences myself for a time, it is my belief that those who enter such fields bring with them their best selves, and their best intentions.

    Nor were the pressures that NASA and Morton-Thiokol were under that day likely to be unfamiliar to anyone who’s ever been in a position of management. Not only was the world watching owing to Ms. McAuliffe’s participation in the mission, Challenger’s lift-off had already been postponed repeatedly.[10] Management officials at these organizations might thus be forgiven for hoping to avoid further delays.

    So if I have anything at all to add to any of this, it is perhaps simply to ask the following:

    How is that a group of people, who without exception were undoubtedly well-intended individuals, collectively come to make such a terrible series of decisions?

    Is there something about the way we, as human beings, currently organize that might contribute to this? Could there be something systemic, in other words, that creates an organizational condition that would account for why the correct decision (to heed Ebeling’s warnings) instead loses out to the worst possible option?


    You have to have an end to everything.”

    In the aftermath of the disaster, NASA would suspend shuttle flights for 32 months. The organization also initiated a total redesign of the solid rocket boosters, which was overseen by an independent governing body as stipulated by the Rogers commission. Nevertheless, another space shuttle disaster in 2003—that of the Colombia—and its subsequent investigation, revealed that NASA had failed to learn many of the lessons of Challenger disaster.[11],[12]

    As for Mr. Ebeling, according to Mr. Grimes’ obituary, he spent much of his time and efforts on issues of conservation following the loss of the Challenger. After leaving Morton-Thiokol, he volunteered at the Bear River Migratory Bird refuge near his home in Brigham City, Utah. Later, he helped raise money for restoration efforts after it was damaged by flooding. His engineering background was also to prove useful in repairing dikes and other water control structures in the area. And in 1990, Ebeling received the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Award for this work from President George Bush.[13]

    His 2016 interview with Mr. Berkes on NPR was to touch thousands of listeners, and prompted an outpouring of sympathy and support. This included his former boss at Morton-Thiokol who called to tell him that he was not a “loser,” and that “a loser is someone who has a chance to act and doesn’t, and worse, doesn’t care.”[14]

    All of which seems to helped. Less than a month before he passed away, Ebeling had this to say to his well-wishers in a follow-up interview with Mr. Berkes:

    “You helped bring my worrisome mind to ease. You have to have an end to everything.”[15]

    Robert Ebeling, 1926-2016. May he rest in peace.




    [1] “Robert Ebeling, Challenger Engineer Who Warned of Disaster, Dies at 89” by William Grimes. The New York Times (online), March 25, 2016. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/26/science/robert-ebeling-challenger-engineer-who-warned-of-disaster-dies-at-89.html?_r=0. Retrieved March 23, 2017.

    [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_Challenger_disaster. Retrieved March 23, 2017.

    [3] Grimes, op. cit.

    [4] Space Shuttle Accident and the Rogers Commission Report. 1986. p. 40&73. https://history.nasa.gov/rogersrep/genindex.htm. Retrieved March 24, 2017.

    [5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_Challenger_disaster. Retrieved March 23, 2017.

    [6] Ibid., p. 121.

    [7] Ibid., p. 105.

    [8] Ibid., p. 105.

    [9] Ibid., p. 149.

    [10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_Challenger_disaster. Retrieved March 23, 2017.

    [11] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_Columbia_disaster. Retrieved March 23, 2017.

    [12] Colombia Accident Investigation Board Report, 2003. https://spaceflight.nasa.gov/shuttle/archives/sts-107/investigation/CAIB_medres_full.pdf. Retrieved March 23, 2017.

    [13] Grimes, op. cit.

    [14] Grimes, op. cit.

    [15] “Your Letters Helped Challenger Engineer She 30 Years of Guilt” by Howard Berkes. NPR. Aired February 25, 2017. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/02/25/466555217/your-letters-helped-challenger-shuttle-engineer-shed-30-years-of-guilt. Retrieved March 23, 2017.


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    Management “parables” seem to have become a bit of a thing in recent decades.

    Consider such metaphorical management musings as The One-Minute Manager, Who Moved My Cheese?, Our Iceberg is Melting, and that customer service classic: The Fred Factor.

    So this week, I offer a management parable of my own for your consideration…


    When a diner drops a fork

    When a diner at restaurant drops their fork, and asks for another, a good server will immediately bring its replacement.

    A great server, however—simply upon hearing the fork hit the floor—will retrieve another, even before the diner has a chance to ask.

    This is just one of the differences between good restaurant service, and great restaurant service.

    If, however, this diner were to be treated the same way many managers treat their employees, the following is probably more likely to occur:

    • First, the server might reply: “Why are you asking me? Your table isn’t even in my section.”
    • Next, the server might inform the diner that he/she still has a perfectly good spoon, and that he/she should be grateful to have that.
    • After finishing up whatever it was that he/she was doing at the time (even if it’s just texting), the server might then begrudgingly get the diner another fork.
    • Before handing it over however, the server would almost certainly remind the diner that forks DO NOT grow on trees, and that he/she should be more careful next time.
    • Finally, after relinquishing the utensil, this server might warn the diner that if he/she plans on making a habit of dropping silverware, perhaps it’s time to start looking for another restaurant at which to dine.

    (For added effect, this would all be done in presence of other patrons, so that they too might “get the message.”)


    See you next Friday.



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