In our last episode, two recent arrivals to the western free-enterprise system were having difficulty making the adjustment from former communist comrades to capitalist colleagues. In chilly Pottsylvania, none other than Rocky and Bullwinkle’s old nemesis, that crumb of crumbs, that schlemiel of schlemiels, that asp in the grass, that perfidious scoundrel…
In Dr. John, How to Work for an Idiot: Survive and Thrive without Killing Your Boss, Hoover’s newest send up on corporate America, it’s hard to tell who stumbles and bumbles more clumsily through the business day: neophyte capitalists from the former eastern block or western corporate veterans who should know better than to do half of the things they do.
Who better to epitomize the archetypal senior executive than that imposing Frostbite Falls figure with antlers spread wide and a profile that protrudes into next week? Step aside Warren Benis, Ken Blanchard, Jim Collins, Steven Covey, Spencer Johnson, Donald Trump, and even you, Jack and Suzy Welch. A fresh new voice speaks for organizational excellence and competitive supremacy in the global marketplace.
Hoover passed up would-be titles like Now Discover Your Squirrel and Who Moved my Moose? before deciding on Bullwinkle on Business. “Like many contemporary chief executives, Bullwinkle is constantly undone by his own pomposity,” explains Hoover; a Fielding Graduate University Ph.D. in Human and Organization Development. “Fortunately for Bullwinkle, he eventually listens to his better angle, Rocky the Flying Squirrel, but rarely soon enough to avoid embarrassing himself.”
Nowhere is this more evident than when the startup Frostbite Falls Mitten Company engages its employees in a cacophony of training exercises designed to build teamwork. As you might expect, the maladroit moose misinterprets the intent of the exercises and discovers what he believes to be true leadership potential in a group of overzealous, safety-goggled, paintball gun-wielding managers who open fire on a group of peers who are exposed and vulnerable as they attempt to maneuver a ropes course high above the frozen tundra of Moosylvania.
As he’s done in his previous books, the author, a senior consultant for Partners in Human Resources International in New York City, finds humor at his own expense and takes shots at his own ilk as Boris and Natasha, having failed in their own start up, turn to the next logical career choice—consulting.
Rocky, as CEO Bullwinkle’s Chief People Officer, finds it hard to anticipate his boss’s next bone-headed blunder, such as hiring Boris and Natasha as obscenely-overpaid-stroke-the-CEO-until-he-feels-like-a-genius consultants. Thank goodness for Mr. Peabody and Sherman, who provide erudite reflection and plausible explanations to Bullwinkle, Boris, and Natasha’s often bizarre business antics. Using the WayBac Machine, Sherman and Mr. Peabody also explore the origins of the most basic business practices, like the military hierarchical organization chart…
No sooner had the door to WayBac machine closed than Sherman and Mr. Peabody were standing near the main road running south from Brussels, Belgium. The year was 1815. Soldiers were being ordered about all around them and shells burst in the air above their heads.
Sherman: “Gosh, Mr. Peabody. A guy could get hurt around here.”
Mr. Peabody: “Just stick close to me, Sherman. Do you see anyone familiar?”
Sherman: “Sure. That’s Napoleon Bonaparte on that horse.”
Mr. Peabody: “Pardon me Sire.”
Napoleon: “Wha-tis-it? Can’t you see, I em busy? Ze Duke of Wellington attacks from over zere and Field Marshall Blucher attacks from over zere avec moi in ze middle.”
Mr. Peabody: “Precisely the way may embattled CEOs would describe their dilemmas.”
Napoleon: “”Who ees zis C-E-O?”
Mr. Peabody: “I scarcely have time to explain now. For my prize pupil, Sherman’s benefit, tell me how many privates you have in the field.”
Napoleon: “Around 65,000.”
Just then an artillery round bursts among Napoleon’s ranks.
Napoleon: “Maybe less…”
Mr. Peabody: “Who commands the privates?”
Napoleon: “Around 5,000 corporals.”
Mr. Peabody: “…who are commanded by..?”
Napoleon: “M-m-m-m, 1,000 lieutenants.”
Mr. Peabody: “Commanded by..?”
Napoleon: “100 captains.”
Mr. Peabody: “Commanded by..?”
Mr. Peabody: “Thank you, Sire. That concludes our lesson on organizational design.”
Napoleon: “Bon. I must not be late to Waterloo.”
With that, the French Emperor galloped off toward his date with destiny.
Mr. Peabody sighed.
Sherman: “Why are you sighing, Mr. Peabody?”
Mr. Peabody: “Neither Napoleon nor his military hierarchical model of management turned out well.”
Besides the dramatizations, Bullwinkle on Business also contains ten practical “how-to” business exercises (one for every chapter) in everything from drafting a corporate vision to aligning organizational design with the natural strengths and talents of the employees. Hoover has crafted an entertainment and learning hybrid that’s bound to help any organization get more bang for their bucks, with lots of opportunities for your army to march on its belly laughs.
Bullwinkle on Business: Motivational Secrets of a Chief Executive Moose (St. Martin’s Press, 240 pages,$23.95)