A wickedly interesting debate has been raging all over India on cows, their holiness, and whether or not they are kosher for certain palates.
Holy cows are all over the place in the corridors of our organizations, as also in peoples’ minds. The organizations’ holy cows come in many forms – outmoded practices, unquestioned beliefs, unverified assumptions, unacceptable policies, inefficient systems, and unexplained strategies. The hallowed cows graze upon all attempts to move aggressively ahead with anything new, and trample on all aggressive/contemporary plans that will propel the organization forward.
In their delightfully titled book “Sacred Cows Make the Best Burgers”, Robert Kriegel and David Brandt list all the Holy Cows that widely and lazily saunter around unchallenged in our companies (descriptions of the “cows”, in Italics, are mine):
The Meeting Cow –
Need everyone to get together in a huddle at the earliest, as frequently as possible, and for the flimsiest of excuses.
The Expert Cow –
In-house experts, outside consultants, industry mentors can overrule even the most popular decisions already made.
The Cash Cow –
“Does it make money?” is the only question that matters. In fact, as long as they are making money, we will not question even the wrong things happening around here.
The Competitive Cow –
We will respond with amazing alacrity and react to anything our competitors do. “Unless our competitors are already doing something or threatening to do something, it is not worth doing.”
The Customer Cow –
“Customer is King, Customer is God and Customer is everyone else in between.” We will drop all our plans, alter our goals, and redefine our aspirations, if our Customer says so.
The Low Price Cow –
Price is but a number. If a lower price will get the business, we go for that. We take pride in offering whatever the price the market wants.
The Quick Reactor Cow –
“Being nimble and fleet-footed is our trade mark style. We simply start doing. Thinking something through is for the birds.”
The No-Mistakes Cow –
“You can try out any idea in this company as long as you don’t fail. We simply do not tolerate mistakes. Public hangings are part of this culture.”
The Downsizing Cow –
When in doubt about meeting our quarterly goals, when a business falters, and when we need to show some spine, we downsize. It works every time with our investors.
The Techno Cow –
“SAP does not accept it any other way. We simply have to ask all our vendors to fall in line.”
The Work-till-you-drop Cow –
“This company respects people who are willing to always put in extra effort and time, without being asked to do so. The one who goes beyond his/her brief, will stay back without watching the clock, and will turn up on any day when called – he/she is our ideal employee.”
There are other “holy cows” that I have seen in the companies I have visited.
The Hierarchy Cow will not let you look at any issue unless it has formally traversed through all the levels, and each one has performed their due diligence on the same.
The Loyalty Cow will forgive any disaster perpetuated by a long-serving employee, as a long tenure in the company automatically translates into good intentions and high integrity.
Traffic in India weaves a path around the cows on the roads, and continues to surge ahead. The cows cease to matter when you have some place to go. Our tomorrow lies in seeing and going beyond today’s holy cows. Change happens when we yank and throw away the halo behind every sacred cow. The alternative is to be bracketed in the same league with these gentle bovines, and simply watch others drive by.
This is essential for our surging ahead towards our aspirations because as Tom Peters says,
“If you hate change, you will hate irrelevance even more.”
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