Oz? A Model for Misfit Management…

Oz05Dorothy: “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.”

Been thinking a lot about management these past 4 years. Now granted, I have to tell you right up front that I’m not in management. Nope. Not me. Supervisory positions, middle-management, and front-line leadership are all far beyond my reach and probably always will be. Just so you know, I am what the textbooks so lovingly (i.e., condescendingly) refer to as a lower-level employee, a worker bee, a member of the rank-and-file, a subordinate (just the fact that anyone in the 21st century would still embrace such a word speaks volumes in and of itself). I tell you all this so that you will know I am something akin to the Monday morning quarterback or sports analyst who has never once set his foot on the field. It’s very possible (and just as likely) that I might not have a clue as to what I’m talking about.

Having said all that…

Since my early childhood I have been fascinated with the Oz culture. Be it the original books (yes, there is more than one for those of you who didn’t know), movies, TV episodes, whatever… I love Oz!!! In many ways it has become a paradigm that helps explain a number of things in my life. Recently, I have noticed a number of similarities between the merry old land of Oz and the current culture that I see in what I would like to refer to as “misfit management”. Unfortunately, most of the analogies are not positive. Oz was a land filled with dysfunctional (albeit entertaining) characters. Many times the lessons we gleaned from them have more to do with examples of what “not to do” than any sort of positive reinforcement. For example, I have a poster of the cast from the classic movie adaptation hanging up in my office to remind me of one of the principle premises of management. The poster features the 4 main characters, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion. It hangs right in front of my desk and reminds me of the 4 great perils to effective management… no brains, no heart, no courage, and letting the person who is lost lead the group. Get the picture now?

Now to accommodate this audience and this current generation that has never seen a “book” I am going to use the 1939 classic movie as the stage for our exploration of misfit management. Most of us have seen the movie but for those who haven’t I’ll try my best to add an appropriate clip at the end of the blog. Like they say a picture can be worth a 1,000 words; so, that being the case, a video should speak volumes 🙂

In the next couple of blogs I am going to focus on individual characters and the lessons they teach us about how we too can fail at effective management in the workplace. But in order to get us started I thought I would simply provide us initially with an outline, a backdrop, a high-level view of our vision and mission for the next couple of days. Here is a list of topics that I plan to explore in the blogs ahead:

1. Oz: Fiction and Fantasy Aren’t Always Fun

2. The Scarecrow: Got Brains? Reasons for Logic

3. The Tin Man: People or Product?… Have a Heart!

4. The Lion: Risk Management

5. The Wizard: The Art of Intimidation and Misdirection

6. The Bad Witch: The Cost of Character

7. The Good Witch: Some People Just Need A Little Help

Well, that’s the main menu for now. I’m sure that along the way I will probably stray from the path (even if it is clearly marked with yellow bricks) and throw in an occasional top ten list or some other random musings. But in the end I think that we will find that the journey will be well worth both our time and effort… not to mention an “A” in my HR management class, as well. My hope is that we will all learn some valuable lessons along the way, ones that will make us better employees, better managers, and better people. Why? Because at the end of the day a business is no better than the quality of the people it employs. Sadly, in this technology driven age in which profit margin has become the end all consideration, we have lost sight of that important truth. The real bottom line is that people are the ones who make business possible. They are the ones who make the purchases and they are the ones who make the products. Eliminate (or alienate) them on either end of the equation and you will lose balance. Lose balance and you eventually fall. It’s just that simple. No, it really is that simple. People matter in every walk of life… even and especially at work.

So, if you are tired of what work has “been” and you are ready to step through the door into a whole new world, then let’s take a journey. Let’s trade in the dry, drab, draining environment of misplaced priorities and misguided principles for a whole new world filled with color and life (and greater efficiency and productivity and increased profit margins). Let’s travel back to the land of Oz and learn about misfit management 🙂