Commentary

May 31, 2013

Ordering monkey food

Tags:
Jenna Fletcher
Incirlik AB, Turkey

A monkey looks out of a cage at Ekotepe Organic Farm near Adana, Turkey. A variety of animals reside at the farm including peacocks, chicken, sheep and horses.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to attend an Office Personnel Management leadership academy. During three weeks of intense and quality training, there was one story in particular from our instructor that made a deep impression and has stuck with me after all of these years.

My instructor worked as a consultant in the business world. One time he was asked to consult for a company that had one section with very low morale. As soon as he walked into their office it was profoundly obvious. Everything about the work environment made it clear this group did not like their job, or each other. One of his first questions to the group was, “What do you do here?”

“We order monkey food,” was their reply.

Thinking perhaps this was industry jargon, he asked, “What do you mean, ‘you order monkey food?’ What does that mean?”

After longer conversations he learned that this group’s entire purpose was to order several different kinds of monkey food and coordinate its delivery to a warehouse. They didn’t know for whom they ordered it, and they didn’t know where it ended up.

To learn more, a field trip to the warehouse where the food was delivered was organized. When the group arrived, they asked to speak with the manager. When the consultant explained that the individuals with him ordered all the monkey food in the warehouse, the manager became interested and excited asking all kinds of questions, “Why do you order so much monkey food? What is it for?”

And so, the consultant asked where the warehouse delivered the food. He set up a second field trip for the office and the warehouse personnel. They arrived at a large research laboratory and asked to speak to the person in charge. When they were finally able to meet with the head of research, the consultant explained he had with him the office responsible for ordering the food and the personnel responsible for storing and shipping it. The head of research became overcome with emotion and insisted on shaking everybody’s hand. After he had said thank you a dozen times, the consultant asked him what they did at the lab.

“We do AIDS research here,” he answered, and went on to explain why they needed so many different kinds of food and how vitally important the food was to the overall research project.

The consultant reported that a few months later when he returned to the office that ordered the monkey food, the changes were remarkable. The office was cheerful and the staff was engaged with each other and their work. There was a huge banner on the wall that said, “We help people cure AIDS.”

The moral of this story, which has stuck with me for over eight years, is that people need to understand what they do and why they do it. Not just the nuts and bolts, and the forms and software. Not just technical data and schedules. Individuals need to understand the bigger mission and how they fit into it.

Every machine, organism and organization is complex. Some parts you can see plainly, and it is obvious what they do and why their contributions are important. However, it is the obscure parts, the not readily identifiable capacities, that you eventually recognize as crucially important elements in making something work – in creating success. What at first glance may seem mundane and inconsequential you find just as essential as the higher visibility roles.

There is no job within the Air Force that is more important than any other. There are no unnecessary Air Force specialties. Every unit, individual — whether officer, enlisted or civilian — in every organization has a critical role to play for Air Force victory.

Good leaders help their team understand their mission and their contribution. Good leaders make why just as important as what and how. Good leaders don’t just lead by example, they lead by perspective.

How does your job ensure mission success?




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
sarc-osi

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: OSI’s perspective

Sexual assault is a problem that affects our entire society, especially our Air Force. The Air Force Office of Special Investigations’ role in combating sexual assault includes conducting thorough investigations and provi...
 
 

Gaining Altitude – Growth Opportunities for the Week of 18 Apr

Through our character – an opportunity to reflect on important issues in our community - Christians around the world are celebrating Easter or Resurrection Sunday this week. Many have a tradition of wearing new clothes on that day as a way to symbolize the newness of life.  You know how it feels to have a...
 
 

Gaining Altitude – Growth Opportunities for the Week

Through our character – an opportunity to reflect on important issues in our community - There is an old saying: “Give someone a fish and you feed them for a day; teach someone to fish and you feed them for life.” The same is true in developing character.  You can give a law or command...
 

 

The Emotionless Leader: trusted, respected by Airmen

“I don’t want to hurt her career …” “He’s the best NCO I’ve got. I don’t want to see him lose a stripe …” How many times have you heard someone in a leadership position make statements such as these when contemplating disciplinary actions when an Airman or NCO makes a terrible decision? Whether due...
 
 

A Chaplain’s perspective on sexual assault

Have you ever had your soul torn in two? In other words, have you ever been hurt at such a deep level that you don’t think you will ever be healed again? That is what happens with a sexual assault. It cuts deep into a person so that their very being is damaged in ways...
 
 

Gaining Altitude – Growth Opportunities for the Week

Through our character – an opportunity to reflect on important issues in our community - We don’t like people to be insincere. But how do we know when a person is insincere?  George Orwell said long ago, “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>