Sunday, May 13, 2012

Management Metaphors You Don't Need: The Pig and the Chicken

Do you know the difference between being committed and being involved? When you eat eggs and bacon, the chicken is involved, and the pig is committed!

I would like to note that my present management chain is not particularly fond of metaphors, and has never offered me this one, but it has come up before.

One advantage of this metaphor is that it allows you to say you want people to be pigs, which does briefly catch their interest. Or outrage them.

But what happens if you actually think about the implications? Well, the first interpretation I come up with is "It is not acceptable to merely be willing to sacrifice your children for the project; you have to be willing to die for it." That's icky. Even suggesting it's a good thing is icky. If you'd like a more professional phrasing than "icky", try "That's not a culture I want to work in."

But if you think about it for a bit longer, it doesn't get better, it gets worse. Ignoring the whole "first you die and then they eat you" thing, the chicken is not involved. The chicken and the egg-eater have a mutual interest in eggs, but different end goals; they are working at cross-purposes with an intersection point. The chicken wants eggs as a way to get more chickens, the egg-eater wants eggs for food.

As for the pig, the pig is not at all committed to bacon. The pig is opposed to bacon. The pig, if it could envision bacon, would surely take steps to prevent it. The pig is a purely unconscious participant in the breakfast, which does what gives it pleasure, unintentionally providing benefit to people who then eat it.

The commonality between the pig and the chicken is that they are both fools, being controlled by forces unknown to them and ultimately hostile to them. It is not in the best interests of my management chain to convince me to that I am in either of these positions.

You know who's involved in bacon and eggs? The waiter. And who's committed? Take your choice; the chef, the eater, the restaurant owner. As for chickens and pigs, their lack of active opposition to bacon and eggs indicates their lack of knowledge on the subject.

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