Re: Beauty of team learning LO2684

Ray, James A (
Wed Sep 06 14:10 EDT 1995

Replying to LO2531 --

Jesse White, Applied Performance writes (23-Aug):
>My favorite is the standard ducks in a Vee formation. However, add a
>couple of twists.
>The first is, while the leader is doing the work of steering the
>formation, the other ducks only see her tail feathers and do not
>necessarily know where the team is going. The teamwork is involved in
>keeping the formation intact and minimizing difficulty for the other

Additional teamwork involves honking for encouragement (and for corrective
feedback when the leader veers off course!). Every bird in the flock
(ducks or geese) *does* have an innate sense of where the flock is going,
and is thus able to provide meaningful feedback (there may be a linkage to
the "vision as a 'field' theory" in this comparison). Further, flocks of
geese actually rotate leadership of the flock (I'm not sure about ducks),
to provide rest for one another.

We have used the metaphor of wild geese within the AT&T Global Information
Solutions organization since '93, with some success. (Of course, any
metaphor is only useful if actual behaviors are congruent with the
espoused beliefs.) Within my work group, a worldwide OD Team, we have
extended the metaphor, using lead geese and flocks for project managers
and teams, respectively. While it is easy to get carried away with such
labels, the spirit of shared leadership responsibility and the intimacy of
the flock have been important to our team's success. One reference I'd
recommend is a monograph entitled: Lessons from Geese. Please respond to
me directly for additional information on this reference.

Also, during '94 James Belasco published a book in the U.S. entitled
"Flight of the Buffalo" which extends the metaphor of flocks of geese as a
model for teaming and shared leadership. He contrasts geese with buffalo,
entire herds of which were slaughtered by simply killing the lead buffalo,
and eliminating the others one by one. Apparently, buffalo blindly follow
the leader of the herd, even if this means going over a cliff (similar to
lemmings)! When the leader is killed, the other buffalo don't know which
way to go. How many of our current organizations are more like herds of
buffalo than they are like flocks of geese? Hence the title...

Nonetheless, this metaphor is not unlike many others used to describe
desired organizational behavior (symphony orchestras, jazz combos, etc.).
The value of such a metaphor is to appeal to those who otherwise cannot
imagine the beauty of teaming...

All the best,

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