Information Systems
College of Business Administration
University of Missouri - St. Louis
The Tale of Many Zebras

When I was a small boy (which my girlfriend still thinks I amů) we use to play next to the big Davango river. In the afternoon, a herd of zebras always use to come down to the river to drink. It was a majestic scene - the graceful movement of a herd of 200 zebras against the dusky color of the sunsetů and it always captured my imagination. As the zebra herd moves gracefully between the pastures and small trees, their senses were alert and their noses always high in the air, sniffing for the scent of a predator. For in the African bushfield, your senses are the only protection against the sudden onslaught of a lion, a leopard or a cheetah. And sure enough, in the high grass, awaits the predator with the patience of an old wise owl. It will lie still amongst the thorn bushes, camouflaged by its surroundings, and observe the herd move from a distance, trying to isolate a weak or slow herd member. And at just the right moment, it will jump out from its hiding place, sprint towards its target with ferocious speed and hunt down its prey with killer instinct. Many times the herd will get away unscathed, but often one unlucky zebra will remain behind in the deadly embrace of its predator's jaws. This may seem cruel, but in the African bushfield one rule presides: survival of the fittest. By preying on the slow, weaker members of the herd, nature ensures that the herd moves much faster as a unit. As the weaker links in the chain gets eliminated, it improves the chances of survival for the whole herd. Some people (including myself) believe that this is the same when drinking beer: alcohol kills brain cells, but it only kills the wear, slower brain cells. This means that the brain as a unit can move much faster and more efficiently without being held back by slower cells.

Moral: By being a project leader, you should always be aware of the "weaker" and "slower" members in your team. They should be assigned tasks that suite their expertise and which they are most efficient in. Members that do not buy into the project as a whole can be compared to the slow zebra - they hold the whole herd back. Consequently, if members continue to resist against the general direction that a group is moving towards, they should be assigned with another team. Removing odd members from a team often causes the whole team to become liberated and become much more productive. It is not always possible to "remove" a team member, but the project leader should think about the needs of the group as a whole, and not let personal sentiment get in the way of his/her better judgement. Yes, this might seem cruel at times, but in reality the business world is just like the bushfield - only the strong survives.

These stories are adapted examples written in my class, IS 6840 (formerly MSIS 488).
© Vicki L. Sauter. All rights Reserved.

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© Vicki L. Sauter. All rights Reserved.