I am not going to mention prostates or platelets today (although there might be an update in the “blood out of a stone” department tomorrow). Instead I am going to tell you a tale of ignored advice and missed opportunities. Of how Queen Chask set up Latsee and how King Chask took it down again.

Queen Chask was in charge of a Kingdom (or should it be a Queendom?) which was a part of a great Empire with many Kingdoms in it. Among the people in her Kingdom were some who were old or had various disabilities and who were known as eldees. The eldees often needed advocates to speak for them because dealing with the kingdom could be very complicated and confusing. Some of them stayed for a few days in Respite Castle and others spent their days in one of the many other Day Castles scattered around the kingdom but Queen Chask wanted to close many of them and build a few swish new ones. One Prince said “No, we won’t let you close our Castle, it would be stupid to make our eldees especially the old people travel over the hills to your new glossy impersonal Castle, we will run our own!” And they did. But the rest of the eldees were left at the mercy of Queen Chask.

In the meantime Queen Chask was plotting to find a way of not running the Castles herself and came up with the idea of setting up a part of the Kingdom as a separate Princedom which she called Latsee. She said that although it was 100% part of the Kingdom it would run its own affairs and she would find a Prince and new Court to run it. So after much huffing and puffing (and spending of shekels) she created Latsee and found a Prince. She had a special Scroll which said that Latsee would run the Castles for the Kingdom and a big Certificate that said that the Princedom was part of the Kingdom.

Queen Chask sent many of her serfs to work for the Prince but he also recruited a lot of Dukes and set up several smaller Princedoms. All her Court said “Wahey this is good; we will have long term stability and sustainability; the new Princedom will protect the service from further erosion of its services; and will be able to provide services to eldees who could not buy them from the Kingdom. We need not worry about it anymore.

All went well to start with and the serfs continued to look after the eldees. They were promised a bright new future for everyone especially the eldees when Latsee was created.  It was almost like the days when a real Princess opened one of the Castles and the Warden said she felt so proud of what they had all achieved in such a short time. From the empty unused shell of a School to a well-designed state of the art Castle with hydro-pool and two ponies offering hippo-therapy and the beautiful designer respite bedrooms and lounges. It was what the eldees deserved.

However after a while the Prince said that the serfs were eating too much bread and he reduced the number of loaves they were given. He also said that they should be able to work at any time he wanted and generally upset them. So to nobodies great surprise many serfs found that there were other Kingdoms where they were better treated, and they packed up their tucker bags and emigrated to these other Kingdoms. This meant that the eldees had people looking after them who did not know them well and who did not make life so interesting. The Prince had to use mercenary serfs who worked for a different Prince who hired them out to anyone who needed them. (These serfs couldn’t be forced to work at any time of day which was what the Latsee Prince demanded of his serfs). Many, but not all,  of these mercenary serfs were willing and some were good but it took them time to learn the needs and foibles of the eldees.

No one noticed at first. Queen Chask had washed her hands of the Princedom even though she had been told that she needed to keep a close eye on the quality of service that was being provided. She had also been told that she should have advocates for the eldees in the Princes Court. Eventually it got so bad that the serfs told the Prince that they no longer believed that he was a real Prince and some of the advocates asked him to leave the Kingdom. The Prince replied “I accept my responsibility in terms of the lessons that need to be learnt from the things that didn’t go well.” (whatever that means) and immediately fled into the outer darkness.

By now the Queen had been replaced by a new King who sent one of the Dukes from his Court to look after Latsee. Then a Count from another Kingdom in the Empire had inspected Respite Castle and said it was not up to snuff. The Count said that the kitchen needed cleaning, some things needed repairing and some of the serfs needed better training. The Duke closed the Castle while he got it sorted and then the new King announced that he was tearing up the big Scroll and taking everything in the Latsee Princedom back into his Kingdom.

There was a great wailing from the serfs and advocates who said why did it take a Count from another Kingdom to tell the King how badly things had gone wrong in the Respite Castle? Why had so many good serfs been allowed to go to other Kingdoms so that there were not enough serfs to look after the eldees? Why had the Queen not kept a closer eye on her Prince and his Court? Was anyone going to tell the King if things had gone wrong in the other Castles (the Count was only allowed to visit Respite Castle)?   Why had they not worked harder at getting it right but rather let things drift so that they had a really big bust up?

And that is the end of my tale of how a Kingdom can create something that should work and then get running it so wrong that everybody is much worse off than they were and a sledgehammer was used to crack the nut.


PostScript If you were wondering where Rule No. 25 came from it was something I wrote many moons ago when I was involved in managing investments in start up companies and prepared a talk to advise others. I had developed a number of rules such as the one above (Rule No. 25) and “No.16 A single option is not an option but a surrender”, “No. 14 Cosy Quality Control makes for better statistics” (I had noticed that manufacturing quality statistics significantly improved when quality control reported to the manufacturing director rather than being totally independent – can’t think why) and “No. 18 People with umbrellas may not know whether it is raining” (In other words keeping in tune with what is going on around you keeps you in touch with reality. I have often noticed people with umbrellas fail to put them down when the rain stops).

What of Rule No. 25? – when managing an investment your freedom to act is quite rightly limited by a number of factors. You are not running the company, you have a Managing Director and Board to do that, so should not be constantly second guessing or interfering. Unfortunately the risk is that you end up with a sledgehammer to crack a nut when a much subtler approach is required. If things are going off course a light touch on the tiller will put the company back where it should be before it goes disastrously wrong. All this means that it is important to build up a good working relationship with key people in the company and make your expertise and advice available when it is sought. Of course if you own 100% of a company you can be as closely involved as you wish and if it is part of your business you should be closely involved at many levels. On the other hand, you can adopt a totally hands off approach which is certainly easier and less time consuming. It does mean that you can get to wield the sledgehammer if things drift. Or to put it another way Rule No. 25

One thought on “Rule No. 25 – Why work at getting it right when you can let things drift and have a really big bust up?

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