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Monday, May 31, 2010

A Tale of Five Monkeys

Training new dispatchers can be a serious drag. Especially when they come in from outside the company and are already well experienced. They come in with all of their established habits and ideas on how things should be done, and have to be beaten into submission so that they can absorb the new way of doing things at their new home. Right or wrong, this is the new world. Live in it.

Not that all of their ideas are bad. In fact, they bring lots of good ones to the table. But, folks - and these clearly applies to fire guys, too - your training period is not the time to impose your old ways on your new world. Once you're in, established, and respected, then people just might pretend to listen to your ideas.

And by the time that comes along, you may realize that the way things are done here is actually with merit.

So, the tale.

You take five monkeys. Put them in a large cage with a bunch of bananas tied to the ceiling, out of reach, and give them a stepladder.

Monkeys are intelligent, and they soon get the stepladder into position. At that point, blast them all with a fire hose. A lot. Knock over the ladder with it, too.

Whoa, they say, wet, sore and half-drowned. What gives???

After a little while, they recover and dry off a little bit, and man those bananas smell good. One of them grabs the ladder, sets it up, and as soon as a foot is on the rung, you blast them again. All of them. Make them remember that this is the worst hose attack ever.

They are smart, they get it. No one picks up the ladder, and they accept that the bananas are forever off limits.

Then take one monkey out, and put in a new one. New monkey puts things together quickly and goes for the ladder. The other monkeys watch warily, and as soon as new monkey puts his foot on - before the hose nails them all - the other four grab new monkey, throw him down, and beat the crap out of him.

Bewildered and sore, new monkey nurses his wounds, but within an hour or so he goes for the ladder again, and the other four once again promptly give him a smack down. New monkey gets it: No bananas.

Then switch another monkey out, and add new monkey #2. New monkey #1 knows by his experience that for reasons unclear, no one is allowed to have bananas, so joins right in with the others as new monkey #2 gets his whuppin'.

Continue switching monkeys out. Pretty soon, you have five new monkeys who have never been blasted with a fire hose, but no one is getting any bananas, and none of them know why.

Moral #1: Just because you don't understand the rule does not mean it is of no value. The "dumb" rule just might be keeping you from surprise injury or death.

Alternatively, I have to admit to Moral #2: Once in a while it makes sense for the leaders to revisit why the rule was put in place, because the monkey-blasting fire hose might be gone now.

In the meantime, shut it and do what you're told.

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