And Another Thing: The Moral of the Story

Mike Cohn explores "The Moral of the Story."

"The Ant and the Grasshopper." "The Three Little Pigs." Famous fables, yes, but, frankly, a bit dull.

This is the Internet Age, and there's lots more to fear than the wolf at your door. The big eyes, ears and teeth belong to the competition; we need some new fables and even better morals ... timely lessons-learned for the cut-throat IT crowd.

So, carefully read the following fables, then pick the moral that really hits home - the one that's not too hard, not too soft, but just right. What is the real moral of the story?

1. His Majesty's New Ship

Many centuries ago there was a powerful King who decreed he wanted a boat. His loyal subjects happily volunteered to craft the vessel from the finest and most sturdy materials. But, alas, with fine craftsmanship comes long schedules, and the King quickly grew impatient. He soon insisted the ship be finished by month's end.

His shipbuilders worked night and day till the end of the month came. That morning, the King stood upon the royal dock as they lowered the magnificent ship into the sea. But, sadly, due to the tight timeframes some corners were cut. As the boat hit the water, dozens of small leaks appeared in the hull. The whole team jumped in and bailed as hard as they could, but the boat was quickly sinking. "More bailers!" cried the King, and more people jumped in. But, the boat continued to descend into the water, until the sheer weight of the project team hastened the inevitable - the ship and its entire crew disappeared under the surface, never to be heard from again.

What is the Moral of the Story?

1) Never throw good people onto a bad project.

2) It's not a good sign when someone hands you a bucket.

3) All things being equal, it's a lot better to be the King.

2. The Fight over the Pie

A mean old woman had won the village pie-baking contest for as long as anyone could remember. While no one cared for her, her pies were second to none and always the toast of the annual county fair. But, one year an innocent young maiden set out to bake a better entry. She spent weeks perfecting the recipe, and soon the aroma permeated the countryside - it was, indeed, the finest smelling pie anyone could ever imagine.

Understandably, the day of the contest, there was excitement in the air. While a handful of people sampled the grumpy incumbent's entry, hundreds surrounded the steaming pies of the newcomer, happily remarking how they were, easily, the best they'd ever tasted. But, when the votes were tallied and the results were in, somehow the old woman's pies had won again, and the young maiden was left bitter and saddened, with an unpaid balance at the local market big enough to choke a horse.

What is the Moral of the Story?

1) Sometimes better is not necessarily best.

2) Never underestimate customer loyalty.

3) Never underestimate customer loyalty, especially when the market leader is standing right behind you holding a really big rolling pin.

3. The Brave Little Pigeons

A man was feeding pigeons in Central Park. It was winter, it was cold and the pigeons were freezing their feathers off. The man noticed their obvious discomfort and said, "Why do you pigeons stay in New York in the winter?"

"Where else would we go?" replied the pigeons, who had not really been around.

"I work for Delta Air Lines," the man replied. "I've flown the LaGuardia-Atlanta route for 20 years. Atlanta is wonderful in the winter. It's warm. It's sunny. I've had a remarkable career flying back and forth - you guys are crazy not to try it."

The pigeons were excited. So excited, they took off that instant and headed south for the winter. But, the impulsive birds did not realize that the Big Apple is about 750 miles from Atlanta - they lasted only about five miles south of Newark before they pooped out and got flattened trying to land in the left lane of the New Jersey Turnpike.

What is the Moral of the Story?

1) Sometimes a good idea should stay just a good idea.

2) There may be greener pastures out there, but they're probably not in Jersey.

3) Never commit to anything just because of a successful pilot.

Mike Cohn lives in Atlanta, but, unfortunately, in a house of sticks.

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