Lessons from Oz

Volume 8 Letter 10

Remember the opening scene of the Wizard of Oz? Dorothy is swept up in a tornado and whisked away from the safety and comfort of her home to a land far away – the Land of Oz. As today’s volatile economy throws us around like a tornado and makes the markets look like the Wicked Witch of the West at play- it seems that we have all been transported to a strange land. The world today could aptly be described as the Land of Oz when Dorothy says “a beautiful place but dangerous too”.

In the last few months it’s been anything but business as usual as both political and business leaders have been struggling to come to grips with all the rapid fire changes, unanticipated risks, threats and dangers. Like Dorothy, business managers must make choices and of course those choices come with consequences. Yet from the beginning and throughout her adventure Dorothy remained steadfast and unfazed as she navigated her way through unfamiliar territory toward home.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a fantastic story but one must be impressed not so much by what happened to Dorothy but rather how Dorothy made good things happen. She had to do some quick thinking and react to some unusual circumstances but her vision never wavered. Every action she took, even when based on in-perfect information, was taken to achieve one goal – to get home safely!

  • She gathered information, assessing her situation trying to get a grip on her new reality
  • She set a vision to return home safely – unharmed
  • She developed a strategy to get home
  • She implemented the strategy – she started down the yellow brick road ie. She didn’t wait for the markets to sort themselves out and life to go back to normal.

Dorothy quickly realized that she couldn’t do it on her own so as a good leader Dorothy enlisted the help of others. She recruited the Tin Man, the Scare Crow, the Lion and others to help her to reach her goals. In return for their assistance, Dorothy helped others achieve their goals and in doing so demonstrated the qualities of a good leader, especially needed in times of turmoil. If you recall…

  • The Scarecrow got a brain: Be smart especially in these challenging markets and understand your market dynamics. Identify customers or customer segments that will be stronger at the end of this economic storm and build strategies to be their partners and leave the weaker customers to your competition.
  • The Tin Man got a heart: Have compassion for both your customers and managers as these economic times will challenge us all. You may need some oil for those squeaky joints – but some oil now will pay big dividends when this market comes back (and it will).
  • The Lion found courage: Courage is not the absence of fear (that’s stupidity) but rather the acknowledgement of it. Fear is a warning signal – make robust strategic plans to safely guide your business through these troubled waters.

Customers, investors and employees are all looking for leaders who have a vision to show the way. They are looking to leaders who are authentic, compassionate and make sound decisions while taking positive action.

Remember, Dorothy couldn’t change the wind – tornados whirl you where they wish just as this crazy market can throw a business around – but rather than sitting and complaining about her new unwanted predicament she did something about it. She made a plan and got home safely and in the process helped others to reach their goals too! What’s your plan?

For the full story see Carol Stephenson of the Richard Ivey School of Business, on Dorothy Gale Financial Times January 28, 2008

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