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The Chicken/Pig commitment story... a *bad* way to motivate your staff...

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Perhaps many of you have heard some variation of the story about the chicken and the pig when it comes to involvement vs. commitment.  Just randomly searching the 'net, here's a basic version of the story:

Think about a meal consisting of eggs and ham and consider the contributions made by a chicken and a pig. A chicken provided the eggs and a pig provided the ham. It can be said the chicken was involved, because the chicken continues to live as it lays more eggs. It can be said the pig was committed, because the pig gave its all to provide the ham and other pork products.

This is one of those "motivational" stories that sounds real good when you read it, and I've seen it used by management at various companies to motivate their staff towards being committed as opposed to just being involved.  But continuing to follow that analogy probably isn't what management had in mind, nor is it what most workers want to do with their lives.

The chicken is contributing at a long term, sustainable level.  She's able to keep giving, as her output is renewable.  The pig, however, is screwed.  He gives everything at a single burst, and that's it.  No more pig, and he needs to be replaced.  While the "farmer" gains from both levels of contribution, the pig isn't around to see the benefits.  The farmer's out looking for another pig.  And the chicken?  She's just sitting there, laying more eggs, and continually providing for the farmer.

I don't think there are many employees who want to be the pig.  Everyone who is part of the team would much rather be the chicken.  And the next time a motivational speaker uses that analogy, think about it...  Do you want to go down in a blaze of glory, or do you want to produce over the long term?


Gravatar Image1 - As long as I am not a battery-caged chicken it would, of course, be the chicken every time.

I equate the chicken with my attitude to work very much. Whenever we have to produce something *new* within the company - be it a Response To Tender, a regular report to a client on a project, or a piece of marketing material - my immediate reaction is:

1) How often are we likely to need to produce something similar in the future?
2) Can the information I need to gather to produce it be used /useful to us in other ways?

Dependant on the answers - Yes or No - to those questions governs whether I go ahead and data gather and create something unique - in its true sense - to fit the need OR whether I go ahead and data gather, store that data in a useful, meaningful and retrievable manner and create a template (form / presentation / marketing shell) to put that information in for this specific instance AND for all future instances where that data would be useful.

I had always thought that that was just common sense and was how the majority of people looked at things, but recently I was in a scenario where I described this approach and where it was met with an obvious degree of interest and was considered exemplary.

As my Mother says " It would be a very boring World if we were all the same." By that token I guess you nees some pigs, but I would still ALWAYS prefer to be the chicken - allowing for the non-battery-cage option.

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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