Dear Bunnies,

This shall be my last post for some time. Like in The Sound of Music when the Von Trapp family leaves for “some time,” I shall not be returning. Adieu, adieu, to you and you and you.

If you would have told me 9 months ago I’d be a published lagomorph—well, you wouldn’t have been able to reach me because I did not yet exist. This has been quite the journey. Although my mad, nose-waggling ramblings may seem incoherent at times, I am certain that I am closer to self-mastery than ever before.

I started the semester with “A world of unlimited first impressions…” It was my first serious attempt at simplifying the complexity of the topics Sofia discusses with her class. I attempted a connection with first impressions and a doctor’s relationship with his patients. In retrospect, I see that it failed. Not miserably, but failed to draw parallels between first impressions, reputation, and Gawande. In retrospect, I should have predicted the public outcry following this post. I made a clarifying post the following week.

That post, “Clarifications, Blog Progress, and My New Job as the First Ever Lagomorph Internal Auditor,” was where I found enough direction to embark on the way to self-mastery. I responded to a post from Sofia’s professor about testing scenarios within a specific framework, and that was when I found my mojo. I finally figured out how to express myself without wandering in circles with my words.

Dare I contradict Drucker? Indeed, I did dare to contract Drucker when I wrote about how it is not necessary for someone to be led by someone else for them to accomplish amazing things. Sometimes, people find inspiration within themselves and manage to hit greatness along their path to self-discovery. The story of William Kamkwamba inspired me like no one ever has, bunny or human alike, to follow my own footsteps.

My greatest post, though, in my opinion was that in which I challenged the humans’ system of learning a little about everything and not knowing much about anything. I never thought of humans as not knowing much about anything because Sofia would always tell me that humans are raised to be well-rounded animals. Well, I think they should read my interpretation of how they teach their young in Jack of All Trades, Master of None: I recommend you do as us bunnies do…

The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of other things…and I am no walrus, but even I sense it is time to move on.

Fare thee well, my lagomorphs, and remember all I have taught you.

From my objective nose-wiggling perspective, I would have to agree that Senge is describing the engagement/disengagement issue with students.  In fact, it seems to me that he is adding an additional category of students that the engagement/disengagement distinction leaves out. There are humans who are engaged to a nauseating degree and then students who are so disengaged it makes me cry bunny tears, but what about the students in between?  What about the students who are semi-engaged or very engaged but only in certain subjects?

From my humble, simple-minded point of view, Senge’s distinctions encompass all students and not just the students who are at opposite extremes.  The students who fall in between engaged and disengaged lack a personal vision.  I have overheard conversations  (yeah that’s right, just because you forget I’m there doesn’t mean I don’t make a note of everything you say, guests of apartment #304) where Sofia’s friends talk about hating their classes and trying hard just for the sake of completing the class.  Other times, her friends will talk about how their last year of classes is just a means to an end (the end being a job, I’d imagine).  I think these statements show that these students are not engaged.  They’re not learning because of their personal visions or intrinsic drives to learn new things.  On the other hand, they’re not unengaged either.  These students usually go to class, they take some notes, and they do more than the bare minimum.  Perhaps these students hate their classes, but they still take them seriously.

If commitment is engagement and apathy is disengagement, then compliance is the midway point between engagement and disengagement that I am calling semi-engagement.  While engaged students have a vision, and disengaged student have no vision, semi-engaged students could have a vision.  They just don’t yet.  (I know, humans are retarded.  I bet you couldn’t find a rabbit without a vision anywhere.  My personal vision, as I enter puberty, is to mark every corner in every room I go into as my territory.  This is quite a shift from my earlier vision of masticating the cords of every room I go into.  The thing about visions is that they need to evolve to be useful…which is another idea for another day.) Semi-engaged students do not have a vision because they either don’t see the need for a vision or cannot find a vision that fits them.

I do not think that that a university’s vision matters much to most students.  Those visions I read in Sofia’s planner or on the advising materials I just finished eating don’t seem relevant to students.  I think the university’s vision is about what the university thinks it should do or how it should do it.  The vision statement of the university will probably not affect students unless the university is proactive at every level in enforcing its vision.  An engaged student already has his/her own vision.  Parts or all of it may align with the school’s vision, but the student is unlikely to incorporate the school’s vision into his/her own vision unless the student agrees with the school’s vision.  If an engaged student does not recognize the value in the school’s vision, he/she will ignore it.  An unengaged student doesn’t have a vision and cannot be forced to develop one.  The only way an unengaged student can develop of vision, and potentially become semi-engaged, is if something catches his/her attention.  However, if the university is already not engaging the student, I do not know what the university would need to do to give the student a wake-up call to get him/her to take an active role in his/her education.  A semi-engaged student, though, can be the most affected by a shared vision.  If the school can emphasize the value of its vision to the semi-engaged student, the semi-engaged student will adopt it.  If the student has not vision of his/her own, and someone (in this case the university is the someone) is sticking behind a strong vision, I can see the student just taking the vision he/she is presented with.

Basically, I am saying that the university needs a strong, realistic vision.  Once it has a strong vision, it needs to make that vision reach the student.  One way the College of Business is trying to emphasize to students that they need to get job experience ASAP is by requiring freshmen to attend the career fair.  The vision of the College of Business is that students need to get internships, and it is making the vision reach the student by requiring the student attend the career fair.  This requirement serves as a wake-up call for the completely unengaged student.  I am told that the business career fair is a crowded see of students in suits competing to get the attention of recruiters.  An unengaged student is likely to be intimidated and thus have that wake-up call.  The semi-engaged student will let him/herself be lead to the school’s vision because he/she has no guidance of his/her own.  This kind of student is not against having a vision, but just hasn’t found one.  He/she is likely to trust what the school tells him/her after attending the career fair.  As a freshman, the career fair probably seems light years away.  I can see the semi-engaged student just trusting the school because he/she doesn’t see how he/she will ever get there otherwise.  Finally, the engaged student will see what he/she is working toward.  This student will probably get excited at the prospect  of being there someday and will use some aspects of the school’s vision as his/her own.  The engaged student trusts his/her own vision but is not above revising it.

The previous is just an example of how I think a school can work toward a shared vision with students.  The engaged student is not really someone the school should worry about—this person will come around on his/her own.  The semi-engaged student can be drawn into the shared vision by being forced to comply (thanks Senge!).  Going through the motions of commitment will eventually help this student become committed.  Lastly, the disengaged student is who the university must truly work hard to reach.  This student does not wish to share a vision and probably doesn’t care about his/her lack of vision.  Whereas the semi engaged student may realize that he/she doesn’t really know what he/she is doing and be a little concerned, the disengaged student either doesn’t see it or sees it and does not care.  I think the university needs to jolt the disengaged students into developing a vision, but how it does so probably depends on each department and how well the department can enforce its vision.  If the university manages to really enforce its vision and demonstrate the value of a vision to disengaged students, it will know it succeeded if its disengaged students become semi-engaged.

As an all-knowing lagomorph, I think it is just the cutest thing that humans try to learn about everything.  They try to learn to cook, to drive, to analyze each other, to do figures in their heads.

Really, they should just stick to that at which they excel.  Many humans on the floor on which I live cook.  How do I know, given that as a bunny it is difficult for me to break and enter into the dwellings of others?  My tiny little constantly-wiggling nose picks up on the stench.  Driving, apparently, is something else that everyone thinks they can learn.  Memo to humans: just because you can run does not mean you can be a marathoner.  Likewise, just because humans can learn to drive does not mean they all can do so.  Why do humans try to do critical analysis when they are woefully lacking in intellect?  Why do they try to do math if they can’t even master order of operations?

Right about now, I bet that you humans are about to say that it is impossible to know what one can and can’t do if he/she does not try to learn.  While I concede to this point, I think humans spend way too much time trying to do things that they are clearly terrible at doing.  They constantly concoct new, twisted ways of compensating for their sad skills.  For instance, my father Kevin, he spends hours playing his PS3 FIFA 2010 soccer game.  Why?  Hmm.  I would say it most likely has something to do with the fact that he is not talented enough to make it into the English Premier League himself.  I would even go as far as to say that he feels a success that may be derived from merit or a talent of some sort when he manages to make a goal in his pretend soccer game.  Honestly, it’s pathetic.  Have you ever seen a rabbit behave in this way?  No.  They try something, and when they learn they are no match for it, they cut their losses in a dignified manner.  Can’t say the same for Kevin.

My point is that it is fine to explore the unfamiliar, but once you can see what you are good at, why not work at getting better at it?

I hear that colleges are talking about increasing the amount of gen eds that students should take.  If 124 hours are needed for an undergraduate degree, and approximately 98 hours can come from classes outside your major, isn’t this the same as a human trying to learn about everything and ending up knowing nothing?  Why can’t humans just cut their losses, realize they can never be properly exposed to everything, and settle on depth of learning instead of breadth?

Dear Furry-tailed Readers,

 

Your furry friend Hester Eleanor Prynne is on sabbatical for this week.  She is disgruntled with the topic and refusing to participate or even come out of her wooden house.  I will be writing in her stead about other blogs and how they relate to me (not Ellie!  Boo-yah, you snob of a bunny!).  I have fused thoughts from the blogs of several people in our class (in some cases, I am responding to blogs written as responses to other blogs) in order to discuss learning, reflections, and how the aforementioned coexist with blogging.

There are some days where I am nerdily bursting with excitement over what I am learning in class.  My brain feels like a diaper so full that is hangs almost to the knees of a waddling toddler.  (Don’t laugh.  You all know exactly to what I am referring.  And there’s a perfectly logical explanation for why this comes to mind for me.  Ask me about it only if you dare.)  Basically, I raise my hand too much, I take excessive notes, and I leave class still engrossed in the past hour and twenty minutes.  I am frustrated at those who are frustrated with me for being so excited.  I see the end product as clear as the BA II-plus permanently affixed to my hand and I cannot understand why it is not as clear to some as it is to me.

Other days, I have nothing to say.  Truly.  And then I feel as if the professor will think that I am not listening because I usually participate in class and if I am not participating I am therefore not listening.  So then I try to think of something to say.  I furiously rack my brain to try to find something, anything, to contribute.  “Good point, so-and-so, even if the professor did tear down your idea for seven minutes after you spoke.”  “I don’t get this.  Start all over please.  Actually, go back three lectures and start there.  Thanks.”  “Nice penmanship.  I’ll bet you were very good at those cursive worksheets where you have to trace the dotted cursive letters back in third grade.  Oh wait.  Your native language involves complex characters that make the Latin alphabet look ridiculously basic.  Which means you must not have done those worksheets way back in grammar school.  Unless you went to an English-based grammar school in your home country because your parents are British professors who moved to India and wanted you to attend a British school.  Hmmm…”  On days when I am moderately sane and have had at least four hours of sleep, I have the presence of mind to know not to open my mouth to say anything.

If I am correctly interpreting something I read, Andy is the twilight between Rebecca (night) and Felicity (day).  Some days, I am interested in what I learn or feel passionately about a topic of discussion.  Other days, I say hardly anything.  For this reason, I think reflections in a class of this nature are important.  As a class, our discussions range from the very involved to the superficially simple.  There are times when I have nothing to contribute, but I am listening and turning ideas over in my head long after class has ended.  Reflections are an outlet for thoughts that may not have been complete during class.  While I nearly abhorred reflecting my thoughts the first few times, it has become easier for me as time has passed because I have learned how to connect loose thoughts here and there.  I suspect part of the reason I struggled with reflections initially is because I am not used to being asked about things to which I cannot provide a conclusive answer.  Andy may waiver between the two extremes, but maybe there are times where his position is not as firm as Rebecca or Felicity’s.  I think Andy benefits from sitting on new ideas for a few days and considering applicable examples before expressing any definitive thoughts.  Reflections allow students to discuss their thoughts without needing to commit to something on the spot.  I have learned that letting Ellie wait until she’s inspired by the bunny muse isn’t necessarily a bad thing—sometimes she needs time to digest what I tell her before she feels ready to share her thoughts.  Overall, I think reflections are a good way of fully developing my thoughts on a topic.  It is hard for me sometimes—just ask Ellie how often Kevin is angry with me because it is 4 a.m. on a Saturday and Ellie and I are still puttering away on my laptop—but each submitted post feels like the accomplishment of a worthwhile task.

Blogging, on the other hand, may or may not be the most effective method of reflecting.  Tyler speaks my mind exactly when he talks about the degree of censorship in blogging and the hesitancy in spouting off about subjects about which I do not know much about (don’t get me started on Ellie—she thinks she knows everything and there’s no contradicting her).  There are limits to what I will type up for this blog simply because of the public nature of a blog.  I am uncomfortable expressing very strong negative thoughts or criticizing certain institutions because I do not really know who is reading what I write (I wish the blog statistics counter told you who reads your blog instead of how often it is read).  Also, I don’t know very much about some of the concepts we discuss in class.  I usually attempt to apply my own experiences to the concepts we discuss, but I do not doubt that I have a few readers who read what I write and then choke on their chocolate milk until it spurts out their nose because they are laughing so hard at the ridiculousness of what I write.  (Chocolate milk is usually the best candidate to come out your nose when you are laughing.  Let me know if you think something else is more common.  One time, though, I was laughing so hard a few grains of rice came out of my nose.  Sorry for the mental image.)  Yet, I also wonder if students’ writing is positively affected knowing that their writing will be published.  Knowing that someone is reading what you write and passing judgment on your thoughts is a powerful tool.  I do not know if it was Professor Arvan’s goal to make students nervous enough about their writing that they think it over multiple times before publishing, but it is a good tool for preventing the disengagement that occurs from having to turn in silly weekly assignments that are cranked out minutes before class begins because you know that everyone gets a check-plus no matter what they write.

In conclusion, I believe reflections are a good tool in this class because of the abstract way in which learning occurs.  As much as I hate to admit it, I think blogging is effective for me because of the challenge it poses to me each week.  Blogging is a chance for me to test myself on what I learned in class each and every week, no matter how much I want to avoid completing my thoughts on a subject.  And I know I need to complete my thoughts because the users of the world wide web will hold me accountable.

 

(Links are to blogs I used for inspiration.)

The nature of the lagomorph breed is au contraire to openness.  In fact, I avoid unfamiliar open spaces at all times.  As far as for familiar open spaces, I really need to be exhausted to collapse in one.  I still prefer to hide and relax or sit by Sofia and relax.  She’s pretty large and in charge, so she ruins any open-space-fears.
Humans are not typically as afraid of physically open spaces.  It’s unrealistic for them. Humans are more likely to be afraid of making themselves appear vulnerable in a symbolic open space.

Case in point: Sofia talks to me about this blog but would never write it herself.  Why?  The openness of publishing something on the internet overwhelms her.  The benefit of publishing writing on the open Internet is that anyone, anywhere can read your thoughts.  For Sofia, the fact that anyone can read her writing is what she fears.  The challenge of such openness lies therein of writing something that reveals a part of the human without the human feeling that too much was exposed.  Sofia clearly could not hack it, and she bribed–ahem, asked–that I would in her stead.

The challenges I see in the openness of writing in this way is that the lack of anonymity scares those humans who are still developing themselves, their ideas, and their thinking processes.  Students of thought lack the confidence to expose what they believe because they are not certain if what they believe now will always be what they believe.

I, a simple little domesticated forest animal, think the challenges of publishing a student’s thoughts via a blog are not worth addressing collectively.

Rather, I believe the journey to expressing oneself via a public outlet like a blog is one the student must undertake alone (perhaps with the occasion guidance from Lanny Arvan, Mastermind Blogger).  It is a chance for the student to test his own thoughts in a new arena and see where the growth can begin.  Since Sofia was too much of a wuss to do this, I stepped in.

For this bunn, the process of learning how to blog has been frustrating, unsteady, and stressful.  However, with the input of Mastermind Blogger (as well as some of you sweet readers), this bunn has experienced growth in mind (and body–I’ve put on a half pound!).

Does anyone out there think that struggling through the blog learning curve alone is not worth the personal growth that ensues?  Even though it would be less satisfying to be given more structure and guidance when it comes to blogging, would the blogger’s output be superior if given a stricter framework?  If I had not endured those few weeks of contemplating bunny suicide, would my blog be any worse?

I’m a little disappointed as I write this because of the negativity associated with my response.  I have spent the last three days turning this over in my little brain. It’s probably due to my simplistic thinking that I cannot come up with a positive response.

Here goes.

While I love the idea of criticism (constructive of course) in the context peer mentoring, I doubt its efficacy when implemented as a system.

Students like to choose who they trust.  When they don’t get to choose who their mentor, there is a good chance that feedback will not be given the appropriate weight.  I think students must receive mentoring from someone they perceive as intelligent in order for criticism to be taken seriously.  The mentor needs to be knowledgeable and experienced about things the mentee finds relevant.  Thus, when it comes to students mentoring students, pairing upperclassmen with underclassmen is an overly simplistic way of doing things.

Students can also be competitive.  If two students are competitive—and not in a friendly way—odds are that even constructive criticism will not be effective.

It is also important for both parties to get something out of mentoring.  If the mentor does not perceive that his/her efforts are well-received, then the mentoring relationship will have issues.  Not only is it important for whoever is receiving the criticism to listen with open ears, but it is important for the critiquer to know that criticism is being well-received.  I do not think peer-mentoring has a high success rate if this dynamic is forced.

Mentoring in a nonsystematic way can have huge benefits, however.  Sofia and Kevin criticize each other’s work constantly.  They discuss ideas, debate sentence clarity, and describe examples when reviewing each other’s work.  I think the deliberations that I listen to—and my goodness, do I listen to the most boring conversations (WACC? Who cares!  That stuff is WACK)—regarding one of the two’s work are probably more insightful to that one’s thinking process than criticism on his/her work.  Defending ideas, presenting news ideas, and discounting commonly accepted ideas shows that they are thinking and challenging each other mercilessly.

I say mercilessly for a reason.

When a high-charged conceptual throw-down is taking place over some milanesas and Woodchuck/Carlsberg, I already know to go into my wooden house for safety.  It gets ugly sometimes.  However, this goes to my point about trusting the person who is offering the criticism.  Those two humans trust the expertise of the other, and so peer mentoring works for them.

In my humble opinion, the extraordinary benefits of peers critiquing each other exist when the mentor/mentee relationship is not forced.  That being said, if peer mentoring relationships are not fostered, there is a chance that they will never develop.  In the context of Sofia’s class project—well, this is how I would do it in the bunny world.  I’d set up an initial meeting or two with lots of lettuce and comfy places for two bunns to hide.  That way, we could get to know each other and then fall into pairs in a more natural way.  I guess the human equivalent of this is negotiable, but my point of mentors and mentees selecting each other remains.  Sofia talks about her class project from time to time, and I think it could be successful or it could be something that in a few semesters’ time would become trite.  The difference in students telling each other that they were assigned mentors at random and explaining how they select their own mentor could be a deciding factor in the longevity and/or overall success of the project.

Ain’t no bunny that does it better than yours truly, but I need to get on Sofia about getting me a buddy to mentor or be mentored by.  Bunnies have it tough in the world.  I need all the help I can get.

Scheduled Appearance

October 13, 2009

Hear ye, hear ye!

My first scheduled appearance will be on the class’s movie night.

I will be arriving with Sofia and will be greeting fans. Once the movie starts, I plan to retreat to my carrier for a little nappie-poo.

I will have Sofia bring a bit of lettuce and grapes in case anyone wants to get on my good side.

Dare I contradict Drucker?

October 10, 2009

I’ve had a very unproductive week.

Actually, I’ve had a very unproductive life. I’ve accomplished nothing.

I just finished learning about William Kamkwamba. His accomplishments are inspiring. His intelligence is impressive. His humor is touching and impeccably delivered at the same time.

What impresses me most about William, though, is how he accomplished everything on his own. Sofia has been leaving her Drucker book lying around lately—she has a library copy that is old and therefore the pages are a rare vintage delicacy to my palate—and I may have picked up a few things here and there about leaders.

As a rabbit, I really don’t deal with leaders very much, or at all, to be honest with you. The concept is foreign to me, but after chewing on Drucker’s ideas, I get it. Leadership, if broken down to its most basic definition, is when someone takes responsibility for inspiring his followers to accomplish a goal.

It really sounds simple enough, but Drucker drones on for pages and pages about everything a leader must do. I really thought it was overkill after the first eleven pages I ate, but as I mindlessly munched (I know, I need to stop—I’m going to get fat if I mindlessly stuff my little face) I realized that many humans don’t understand leadership.

Many seem to associate leadership with titles and therefore power. This is ridiculous because if you fail to inspire people toward a common goal/task, you are just a pompous person with a title.

I’ve long thought this of many countries in Africa (I watch an inordinate amount of television and Africa is on BBC quite often). Military leaders and presidents think that they are leaders because they have control over many aspects of their respective countries. However, most of them are not leaders. They are corrupt officials with short-sighted viewpoints who continuously seem shocked that their countries are on the brink of financial ruin or plunging into socioeconomic crisis. With self-serving interests and the inability to inspire anyone to anything—unless it involves violence, drugs, or money—they fail those very people they are supposed to lead.

William Kamkwamba is an extraordinary young man because he succeeded without anyone leading him. He was failed by many who should have been leading those who would in turn lead him. The fact that leaders in Africa live in disgusting abundance while instituting a system where children must pay school fees of $80 is revolting. 74% of Malawians live below the international poverty line, established as living on less than US$1.25 per day. I find it appalling that a government’s schools could charge $80 per child per school year when the average Malawian only earns US$170 per year and has 6.8 children (that’s an unbelievable $1156 for one family to educate its children for one year).

How can those officials refer to themselves as leaders? Their corruption and callousness to the plight of their countrymen is frightening. Humanity, as an overall species, has the remarkable ability to fail itself.

Somehow, though, one young man with an eighth grade education led himself to build a windmill for electricity and irrigation. Using a picture in a book and scrap materials, he built a windmill to a startling degree of precision. According to an article on Mr. Kamkwamba’s website, many engineers in developed countries could not construct a windmill period—let alone with Mr. Kamkwamba’s odds.

Mr. Kamkwamba was not inspired by anyone to do anything other than try to survive, but only 8 years later, he has spoken all over the world. He is an incredible individual capable of inspiring many to take their future into their own hands.

It’s probably just my inferior rabbit intellect, but something seems off. This young man succeeded in an atmosphere of statistical improbability. He has inspired himself to work toward the goal of improving the life for those in rural areas of Malawi. However, I’d be so forward as to say that his story would inspire pretty much anyone who heard it (it even brought my stupid female owner to tears). Mr. Kamkwamba has catapulted his fame into a variety of humanitarian projects resulting in clean water, irrigation, books, and scholarships for his village. His brilliance is noteworthy, yes, but his tenacity to improve his life and that of his villagers is true leadership.

I feel so insignificant. I’ve been working on fraying a corner of my blue blanket for about 3 months now. That’s how long it took Mr. Kamkwamba to build his first windmill. I don’t know whether I feel depressed or inspired…

I remain confused, though. This young man proves Drucker’s theories may not be applicable in every instance. He wasn’t led by anyone but himself.

It leads me to wonder–does everyone have the capability to be his own leader, or is Mr. Kamkwamba’s personality as rare as an unattended bowl of grapes?

Sources:

http://movingwindmills.org/
http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/malawi_statistics.html
http://www.physioihd.com/index.php/destinations/countries/157-malawi?209d55e6e20ca13acd125da10c51d9c1=3d0fcead07baf2d906d0d06d83515f4f
http://www.pregnantpause.org/numbers/fertility.htm#zr

I consume an inordinate amount of Timothy Hay.  In fact, I spend my entire day working on bales of that delectable green plant that Ben Franklin is credited for naming.  As I nibble through blade after blade of emerald deliciousness, I can’t help but wonder…

 

How do they do it?  Every gleaming foliole I tug out of the bale is approximately the same length.  Every. Single. One.  Who performs this daunting task?  What sweet, kind human being takes the time to do this?

 

Originally, I thought my beloved mother, Sofia, neurotically sat down each day with sewing scissors and trimmed the hay so that the blades were all the same length.  That was before I saw the bag.

She buys enormous, 48 ounce bags of perfectly trimmed hay.  No split ends.  No long stragglers.  Just even, peace-of-mind-inducing hay.

 

Here is how I imagine it.  There is a factory somewhere in a far away land.  It’s a gloriously harmonious place to work, where employers and employees alike share their passion for this beautiful plant.  Every single person in that factory who has a role in the production of the timothy hay (that includes managers) holds as unwavering commitment to delivering the very best timothy hay possible, cut up with startling precision.  In order for people to develop an understanding of the goal of the factory, tiny bunnies (like me!) are periodically brought in for the factory workers and managers alike to observe, play with, and feed.  They see firsthand the sheer joy brought to a little rabbit’s face when it takes the first flavorful bite of pure timothy.  The workers and managers alike witness the validity of their business strategy—to provide premium USDA organic timothy hay, neatly trimmed, free of pesticides for rabbits everywhere.  But how do the leaders of the Great and Wonderful Factory of Timothy Hay foster this dedication to strategy?

 

An insider has offered to spill the details to me so long as no one steals their trade secrets…so, my dear rabbit readers, don’t tell.  This is classified!

 

Basically, the entire company (encompassed by the factory building) is aligned with the strategy of providing top-notch hay.  Quality is a consideration of utmost importance, and it shows at every level.  Inventory from suppliers is routinely tested to ensure pesticide-free agriculture.  Customers (rabbits) are routinely surveyed for feedback.  Focus groups are conducted to research about potential marketing concepts.  Factory equipment is maintained with organic products, and vinegar is the strongest cleaning agent used.  Managers routinely scour the factory floor, production line, and delivery channels for hidden potential.

 

Strategy is everyone’s job.  Once per month, different company divisions meet with the executives.  These decision-makers keenly focus on the feedback—good and bad— of employees in the factory because in order to carefully maintain progress and manage potential, it is important to instill top-down communication.  Management does not want to risk wasting potential because no one listened to the hay washer (each blade of hay is hand-washed) when they recommended a soak method that removes 16% more dirt than the current method or fail to avert a mad hay disease/aphid flu pandemic because a production-line employee’s perspective on sanitation best-practices was unheard.  It sounds like management gets its advice from those in direct contact with the output.

Strategy is a continual process.  It is reevaluated periodically to ensure that the most efficient, effective method of prepping and packaging timothy is properly implemented.  Regular updates from employees throughout the company ensure that managers have current information so that they can make informed decisions.

 

Leadership remains focused on mobilization, governance, and institutionalization.  Mobilization is important to develop a vision and strategy to tackle the business goal.  Leaders demonstrate governance by enforcing company cultural values—such as that everyone’s voice counts—and maintaining open channels of communication.  New systems are formed every few years with institutionalization.  It’s important to keep current with social change and new technology for the factory to be successful (dental was recently added to employees’ benefit plans, as the economy discourages bonuses).

 

It’s clear to me that the carefully trimmed hay is a result of carefully planned strategy, carefully executed.  This sort of organizational-wide effort results in producing many of the most important intangible elements of an organization—ones not measured on financial statements.  It is a competitive advantage for the Great and Wonderful Factory of Timothy Hay.  Financial measures are lag indicators, or indicators of what has already happened that just provide feedback, and are nowhere near as valuable for the future as nonfinancial measures (lead indicators which hold more predictive value) such as customer relationships or the camaraderie between executives and floor workers.

 

 All of this I get from a single blade of timothy hay.

 

 

“Transforming the Balanced Scorecard from Performance Measurement to Strategic Management: Part 2” Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton

Greetings.  I apologize for my hay-breath—I’ve been stuffing my little furry face as I help Sofia (who is hopelessly clueless) with her studying for her finance case exam tomorrow.  Honestly, she just needs to cut her losses with that finance course.

She is taking a course for which she has not taken all the prerequisites.  I told her it was a bad idea.  She really does not have the time for both me and finance, so that was my first complaint.  Then, after a few weeks, what I observed worried me.

I woke up one Wednesday morning at 6 a.m. to groom myself and get ready for my day.  (Yes, I am nocturnal, but really, I am extremely active even though I only weigh 2.5 pounds.  I need to rejuvenate myself on a roughly ninety minute rotation.)  At precisely 6:06 a.m., my routine was disturbed by a rat-nest haired, conjunctivitis-eyed shell of my beloved—albeit dense—human pet.

Sofia emerged from her bedroom not long after she entered (for a human, that is—human rejuvenation requirements are excessive, really, considering how little they do that involves their entire body in action).  As she stumbled around, crazily muttering to herself about WACCs and how she’d like to whack Kevin for not waking up to study with her—my eyes darted around the room.  5 finance textbooks piled by the television.  A calculator on the counter.  Stacks of notes furiously scribbled in colorful gel pens.  Eraser crumbs under the table.  Candy wrappers, flavor-ice wrappers, tissues, plugged-in laptop—all the telltale signs of exhaustion, frustration, and determination.

Sofia decided she had to sign up for a class centered on advanced corporate finance cases.  It’s crucial to my as a student and professional, she told my grandparents.  It’d be a mistake to not take the class, especially if the professor allows me to without my prerequisites, she told me earnestly over grapes.

Why? Why the need to put herself in a class where she is clearly over her head?  A class where she needs a rabbit to check her algebra because her brain gets fried from all the other calculations?

I’m not certain.  She doesn’t seem to need external incentives to want to work hard in this class.  She seems to genuinely like the material, even after she spent 13 hours on a case, discussed it in class, and then spent another 4 on it to adjust her answers to reflect what she learned during the discussion.  She doesn’t complain about that class unless voicing frustrations regarding how much more she could get out of the course if she didn’t have to spend three-quarters of her study-time learning concepts that are considered elementary in the context the case.

I guess she really likes it.  It seems to me like the class has captured her interest and is challenging her.  It is pushing her beyond what she believes her capabilities to be.  She reads the case, checks the class textbook, checks her other finance textbooks to try and break down what she reads in the class textbook, googles the terms from her supplemental textbooks for further information, looks up her professor’s old powerpoints, goes to see her 422 professor, goes to see her 321 professor to try and understand what her 422 professor meant, suckers her friends in 422 to “study” with her until midnight on Friday night…and the pathetic list goes on.

But  is it really pathetic?  Is there something wrong with wanting to learn about something to the point of becoming obsessed?  A nirvana of sorts that comes only after intense focus followed by intellectual enlightenment?  To explore every single potential avenue in the event that just one will provide deeper understanding?

I don’t think so.  I think all humans could benefit from what can only be referred to as intrinsic motivation.  In fact, the world would be a place of excitedly wiping-the-sweat-off-my-brow-contentment if intrinsic motivation was used as the path to learning.

But it’s not.  That’s the beauty of intrinsic motivation.  It cannot be forced or harnessed.  You don’t know what motivates you from within until you realize that all you have to show for the last six hours is post-its with sensitivity analysis stuck together to form a little train.  It has nothing to do with outside course learning or in-the-classroom-until-I-stab-myself-in-the-eyeball-with-my-blunt-pencil learning.  It is unique to each man, woman, and rabbit.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I know that there has to be a way of digging a hole in this unbelievably ugly carpeting.  I cannot stop myself from instinctively attempting to burrow any more than Sofia can stop herself from finance (that’s pronounced fin-ANS, not FIGH-nan-s).