Carrying a Boat

There’s this story I made up when I was a consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers to help clients with change. See, it was the 1700’s and people were heading out to explore the world, the new world, but they weren’t doing such a bang up job because they didn’t seem to have the right equipment. This one explorer convinced a king to give him money for a brand new ship, something that had never been seen before and that would allow them to go farther than they could before.

The explorer had his ship built to his exact expectations and it was soon launched. It was beautiful and well-built and was faster than anything that had gone before and the king was pleased. The explorer gathered a crew and soon set sail for new lands and quickly landed in a storm. The seas raged and the gale-force winds tried to rip the sails from the ship but the ship handled it perfectly and eventually sailed out of the storm.

Several weeks passed and the ship finally arrived at the shores of a new land and the explorer and his crew rejoiced. After spending several weeks on shore, the explorer knew that they had to go inland to explore the interior of the country. He looked at his beautiful ship and thought how well it done its job, how it transported them so effectively across thousands of mile of open water. He thought that it had done its job perfectly…so he ordered his men to lift the ship up on their shoulders and they carried it inland with them. They were only able to make 1 mile a day but they kept slogging on until one by one, the crew dropped dead until they couldn’t lift the boat anymore.

It’s a simple thing…when environments change—when the problem changes—you need to change the solution. Unions were a solution to a problem that no longer exists….they’re just carrying the boat.

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