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.


 
 

 

News Briefs February 27, 2015

Library closure The Base Library will be closing early Feb. 28 for an official function. Hours of operation will be 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day. For more information, call 661-275-2665. Blood drive The next American Red Cross Blood Drive on Edwards AFB is 10 a.m.-4 p.m., March 4 in the Chapel 1 Annex. Both...
 
 

Just American: A century of Black life

Black History Month, or National African American History Month, is an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history. The event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted Harvard-trained historian Carter Woodson. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially...
 
 

Leadership development program nominations due March 16

Nomination packages for majors and major-selects interested in the Defense Department 2015-2016 Executive Leadership Development Program are due to the Air Force Personnel Center by March 16, officials announced. The program, designed specifically for highly motivated officers who have demonstrated outstanding leadership ability, commitment to public service and integrity, and who have an inter...
 

 
Air Force photograph by Bobbi Zapka

C-12 pilots take to skies at Edwards

Air Force photograph by Bobbi Zapka Edwards AFB is home to the U.S. Air Force C-12 school house. Referred to as a split school house, when an individual is assigned to fly an Air Force C-12 Huron, they spend three weeks in Alab...
 
 
Air Force photograph by Jim Varhegyi

AF senior leaders caution against sequestration

Air Force photograph by Jim Varhegyi Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III answers a question about the fiscal year 2016 President’s Budget request during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on D...
 
 

Soldier, retirees win big with Exchange’s ‘Your Holiday Bill Is On Us’ contest

The Army & Air Force Exchange Service made dreams come true for three grand-prize winners of the MILITARY STAR® “Your Holiday Bill Is On Us” sweepstakes—and for one young Soldier from Fort Bliss, winning has changed her life. As a grand-prize winner, Sgt. Kakala Loketi had her MILITARY STAR® account paid in full. During a...
 




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>