The parable of the farmer


Once upon a time, there was a farmer who wanted to run a profitable farm. But farms can be complicated and he didn’t like to hire help or ask the county agent for advice.  “Nobody knows this farm like I do,” he thought.

One day, he traveled to town and overheard a merchant who was lamenting the fact that he did not have enough bacon for his customers.  “Oh, this town loves bacon so much…I could sell as much as I could handle.”  With this, the farmer went back to his farm and decided to only grow pigs on his farm.  “It’s too much trouble having to deal with so many different animals anyway,” said the farmer.  “The horse needs oats and exercise, the cows need grass and milking, the sheep need sheering and special attention.  If all my animals were alike, then life would be simpler and I would only have to manage pigs.”  So the farmer downsized his farm and then went out and employed only pigs.

This made managing the farm much simpler.  However, the farmer soon ran into problems.  Without horses, he could not plow the field.  “I was so intent on bacon, I forgot that I needed crops for my family,” said the farmer sadly.  Without cows, the pasture was overrun with weeds and he was without milk.  “I never realized how helpful those cows were.” And sans sheep, the farmer was without sweaters and woolen underwear in the winter.

Tried as he might, the farmer could not get the pigs to plow the field, graze in the pasture or provide substantial clothing.  As for milk, forget it…especially since the farmer thought it would be easier just to raise hogs (“Shouldn’t bigger pigs produce more bacon?”)  His unisex decision also resulted in some limitation on growing his inventory.

To top it off, the merchant stopped asking for bacon as fickle customer tastes had moved to low-fat preferences.  With a bunch of single-minded producers, the farmer quickly went out of business.  He sold his farm to a developer at a loss and became a hermit…never heard from again.  As a side note, the horses became very successful at the local track, bringing their owner millions of dollars in winnings. The sheep won numerous county fair ribbons for a herder who be came famous as “Mutton Jeff.”  And the cows became the basis for a vibrant ice cream franchise.

The moral is obvious:  While not always easy, the greatest success for an organization comes when a manager steps up and not only manages, but appreciates and leverages the diversity – in talent, background and even temperament – of his employees.  To settle for any thing less, leaves you with a lot of unproductive boars.

Want to rock the boat without getting fired?