Skip to content

Riding a dead horse

Many years ago, I had heard this analogy by – I believe- John P. Kotter. Back in the day (probably around 2001) I was working for FEMSA, the largest beverage company in the Americas. Kotter was brought by our team, as part of a Leadership Development program for executives.

He spoke about organizational change and leadership, but the most memorable thing he said was this piece of Dakota tribal wisdom:

“When you discover you’re riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.”

This strategy seems to be simple and logical given the above situation. However, if we adapt it to the organizational world, we will find different strategies as a response to the ‘dead horse’ problem. We tend to:

  • Change the rider (e.g. replacing the managers or directors or creating a different program)
  • Use a riding crop (performance manage the members of the team or change their goals)
  • Create a working group to understand why the horse is not moving
  • Say: It has always been this slow
  • Do a benchmarking study to understand how other tribes ride their dead horses
  • Develop new quality assurance standards
  • Add more riders
  • Appoint a task-force to revive the dead horse
  • Create a learning program for the riders
  • Appoint a committee to study the dead horse
  • Bring an external consultant to help us ride the dead horse
  • Create a new policy regarding how to ride dead horses
  • Ignore the dead horse…what dead horse?
  • Harness several dead horses together for increased speed
(c) photobucket

Your organization may have different examples on how it deals with a “dead horse problem”, but I’m sure you have seen the examples above.

This cognitive dissonance is what gave me the idea for this brand. We have all seen the Elephant in the Room. But as we can imagine, dragging an elephant out of the room just wouldn’t work. That’s why we need elephant whisperers. People who can gently, but firmly help the organization see what is going on and guide them through change.

The more bureaucratic or autocratic organizations are, the less likely they are to have elephant whisperers.

If your organization’s reaction to change and the iVUCA world doesn’t make any sense, doesn’t improve the client or the employee experience, you’re dealing with a dead horse. Now, you need to tell the executives that the horse is dead.

We hare happy to share some tools to help you deal with a dead horse.

Leave a Reply