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by Kenneth A. Tucker and Vandana Allman
Warner Business ©2004, 152 pages, $18.95 (ISBN # 0-446-53049-2).
A Business Parable For the 21st Century
When complex business principles become too cumbersome to explain with real-life examples, a new approach can work wonders. As an alternative to a straightforward business book, a parable can be an effective way to explain sound business practices and the mistakes that occur when a company undergoes a major shift. In Animals, Inc., business consultants Kenneth A. Tucker and Vandana Allman offer a modern business parable that provides deep insight into what can happen when a new owner takes over an old enterprise, and how that enterprise can use common sense to wade through the quagmire of conflicting business theories.
The tale Tucker and Allman weave is full of animals who represent the familiar characters in every business. Old Farmer Goode is the outgoing leader who leaves his farm to the animals who have populated the farm for years. An experienced pig, Mo, rises to the occasion of replacing him, but finds that leading the diverse types of animals under him is a challenging task. Not only does he become bogged down with creating the perfect business plan, but he is under the constant external pressure of Mr. Biggs, a developer who has plans to turn the Goode farm into a shopping mall. While the threat of his hostile takeover looms over Mo’s enterprise, the various factions of animals cope with motivation and morale, performance expectations, and muddling through the obstacles that constantly arise during their daily activities.
Real-Life Problems In a Make-Believe Setting
The difficulties faced by the animals in Animals, Inc. reveal the real dilemmas faced by leaders and managers every day in the real world. By placing them within the context of a make-believe world where animals talk and a scarecrow serves as chief security officer, real executives can learn more about their own business practices. Insightful lessons about human resources decisions, marketing strategies, external and internal threats, and even compensation decisions pour out from every page of Animals, Inc. With important messages imbedded in a fairy-tale setting, real-life leaders can take a hard look at the ways they would respond to similar challenges, and learn better ways to approach the types of problems encountered by the characters on the Goode farm.
Once upon a time, farmer Goode had a prospering farm on which all the animals were well cared for. When the old farmer retires to Greener Pastures Retirement Home, the animals rise to the occasion and take on the hard work of keeping the farm in operation. Resisting the threat of Mr. Biggs, the unscrupulous land developer, is hard enough, but when the new CEO, Mo the pig, struggles to create a working business plan, he is overwhelmed by the many conflicting business strategies he finds in the books that fill Farmer Goode’s old office.
First, Mo tries an “animal opinion survey” to find out where everyone on the farm stands, complete with arbitrary questions and management bias. Once communication problems are dealt with and competencies are determined, he proceeds to muck up the works with poorly planned initiatives and misdirected objectives. Trouble with agricultural espionage and a gang of disloyal pigeons keeps Mo on his hooves, but his desire to keep the animals happy and equal remains. Despite making the mistake of trusting the results of his studies and surveys over his own common sense (e.g., Lionel Engine the mouse, despite his diminutive size, is assigned to drive the tractor since it is determined that he has the right motivation and leadership potential), Mo muddles through the difficulties of translating management theories into executive actions.
With a sly sense of humor, plenty of animal puns, and numerous connections to the real world of business (including the real difficulties of re-engineering an aging enterprise), Animals, Inc. raises many crucial issues about management and leadership. Because it is a parable, it is able to reveal the answers to many universal business questions without the support of statistics and case studies. In Animals, Inc., Mo becomes the visionary executive leader who strives to make wise decisions, works to add dignity to the lives of his workers (the “hen house” becomes the “Female Chickens’ residence”), and rises to the occasion of his new leadership role. Much can be learned from the story of a pig. ~
Why We Like ThIs Book
Animals, Inc. reveals numerous dimensions of business and offers practical insights at every turn. Taking its cue from George Orwell’s Animal Farm and revising his ideas into the story of a modern business turnaround, Tucker and Allman have created a noteworthy microscope of a parable within which leaders can observe their own organizations and learn better ways to lead them to success. ~