Managing from A to Z
I NEVER METAPHOR I DIDN‟T LIKE. Poets use metaphor to help readers see familiar objects in new and provocative ways. Business authors use metaphor to help themselves sell books in new and provocative ways. Ever since Sun Tzu stoked fires in the well-padded bellies of corporate leaders with The Art of War (which for 2,500 years wasn‟t marketed as a business book, Tzu‟s original publishers having missed a trick), metaphor-laden books have sold briskly. Managers look to battle, sport, science, the arts, and—sadly—cheese to reveal truths not present in more literal-minded texts. The best way to understand what business is really like is to study things that aren‟t really like business. The following A-to-Z rundown of business metaphors is by no means exhaustive: in the interest of limiting ourselves to 26 examples we‟ve left out many items, from football to rocket science. But compiling any kind of alphabetical primer requires making trade-offs. In that sense, it‟s a lot like business.
A is for antarctic exploration
In the eat-or-be-eaten world of business you‟d expect the Donner Party to win the Most Admired Explorers title hands down. Instead, business readers are devouring the exploits of Sir Ernest Shackleton, the intrepid commander who used a rowboat, penguin meat, and benchmarkable management practices to save 27 men from freezing to death in the Antarctic. Yes, there is an I in ice, but that didn‟t stop Shackleton from forming effective teams and exhorting the personal best from each individual. Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons From the Great Antarctic Explorer, by Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell, has been embraced by everyone from Fortune 500 to the CEOs of Internet start-ups, who presumably see in the disintegration of the floes beneath Shackleton‟s feet a situation analogous to their own. Except Shackleton got his people out in one piece.
B is for baseball
You couldn‟t ask for a better turnaround artist than Billy...