If I was in Charge

madmonkeysPeople have asked what I would do if I ran the zoo. First of all, I’d put a zookeeper in charge. I don’t know how to run a zoo. I can tell when the zoo isn’t managed properly – the same way people who aren’t plumbers can tell the toilet doesn’t flush. You don’t have to be an electrician to see smoke from a breaker panel, nor a chef to know your steak is overcooked. So my zoo would have a zookeeper in charge. I would expect my zookeeper to know how to run a zoo so the uneducated bystander thinks it’s running properly – animals and visitors properly segregated, animals properly fed, no visitors or employees killed and eaten, routine things.

The zookeeper, not a minion or a flunky, in my zoo would make all public pronouncements of policy. Until all the animals in the zoo and all the visitors have a firm grasp of the policy, its motivations, and its reasons, their job is to learn how policies affect decisions. If you’re a zoo animal or a zoo employee and you’re not asking questions, you’re not doing your job. If you’re just a visitor, you should still want to know how this all works, as a simple safety precaution.

For an example of a learning opportunity, let’s say the zookeeper decides to get rid of a couple of monkeys, and let’s say that the zookeeper decided to get rid of a specific couple of monkeys. There’s no indication that these two monkeys have violated any of the monkey cage rules. The zookeeper just doesn’t like those two monkeys. My zookeeper would explain the decision clearly enough that it will withstand questioning. If saving money is the motivation, the zookeeper would explain exactly how money was being saved and why those two particular monkeys represent the best savings. If ninety percent of the monkeys’ subsistence comes from the Feed the Monkeys fund, the zookeeper shouldn’t announce saving money from the Pull Weeds and Paint Cages fund. Other animals and zoo employees should ask questions until they’re sure they understand exactly what was done and why. The zookeeper shouldn’t send a minion or a proxy to explain.

If the new zookeeper lobbied for the zookeeper job on the belief that complaints from the zebras and giraffes and monkeys is a sure sign of a bad zookeeper, and the new zookeeper is having the same kinds of complaints, the new zookeeper should step down from the job. If your primary qualification is that there’s going to be an improvement, and there’s no improvement, you’re not the zookeeper for the job. To use a prior analogy, if you’re not making the toilet flush (most non-plumbers can spot that) you’re not the plumber for the job.

This whole thing is pretty self-enforcing. The big cats don’t like being lied to, they can tell when they’re being lied to, and they’re hungry. And the people who have to shovel up the mess are going to lose patience if they find out a lot of it is unnecessary.

My zoo would not combine the aviary with the parking lot, unless I owned a car wash near the parking lot exit.

This all seems fairly simple to me. Any confusion can be simply eliminated by just asking questions. Lots and lots of questions.

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