Three animal tales to avoid

Do you know Who Moved My Cheese? Did you realize that Contented Cows Give More Milk? Are you acquainted with the Secrets of the Wild Goose?

(Yes, Ive stepped in those, too, and thats not what we mean by "Secrets").

Youd know the answers to these loony questions and more, I suppose, if only you had the time to read what passes for a business book these days. All three titles are, no kidding, recent or upcoming business books, and comprise just part of publishings current silly season in animal-based management:

* In Who Moved My Cheese? (September 1998, G.P. Putnams Sons), author Spencer Johnson describes how two mice, Sniff and Scurry, and two tiny people, Hem and Haw, deal with change using cheese as a metaphor for happiness, peace, or any other object of desire -- including, presumably, real cheese. (I swear Im not making this up.) The story of these four characters and their maze is supposed to help us achieve personal and professional success. The book includes full-page line drawings of cheese (Swiss, apparently) emblazoned with such useful tidbits as "Having Cheese Makes You Happy" and "The More Important Your Cheese Is To You, The More You Want To Hold On To It."

Limburger, anyone?

* In Contented Cows Give More Milk (March 1998, Saltillo Press), authors Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden reveal the surprising insight that employees who are happy in their jobs -- please sit down before you read this -- actually produce better work. Even more amazing, you, too, can contribute to making your employees happier and, of course, more productive at work. One disappointing omission from Cows, however, is any explanation of how employees will feel about being compared to refrigerator-sized mammals with IQs of 2, whose main function is to be squeezed dry by the corporation that owns them. Squeezed dry, that is, until they cant produce any more, at which time theyll be slaughtered and eaten.

Just wondering.

* Last but hard to be least among this crowd, Donald H. Weiss Secrets of the Wild Goose (April 1998, AMACOM) reveals how executives can become more successful by flying less like eagles (lonely, proud) and more like geese (shot at, eaten), in formation with "many feathers working together to sustain lifting power and reach a common goal," according to press notes. Now, some of you might be saying, "Oh, he means teams," but, in fact, its just that kind of thinking that will keep you from ever publishing your own recycled book of business maxims. Goose teaches that there are six competencies of self-management, but unfortunately fails to instruct us as to whether these are replacements for, or additions to, Stephen Coveys 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Other goosey insights include the fact that we must "Create the Future" and "Expect the Unexpected," as in "Remember why you cant predict the future: It hasnt happened yet."

On second thought, maybe I have stepped in this stuff before.

Send e-mail messages to John Brandt at [email protected]

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