Do you know your Zenobia(s) ?

Zeonbia is a great book by Matthew Emmens and Beth Kephart that you can not only complete in under an hour, you probably want to read it once again right away – to get a better flavor of the simple yet powerful story of Moira who must find a way out of the chaos she encounters day one of her job and no one is quite willing to help her.

Zenobia is story of our times which is such a hard-hitting truth. I would say Moira is lucky (or rather willing to challenge status quo ?) in the sense she is able to see that there is a problem – a majority of us do not evey realize there is a problem at the workplace. Of course, of those sharp minds who are able to figure out there is indeed some problem, some try to find a solution, get ridiculed like Moira, and very few among us mortals really succeed like her. Of course, Moira is not a superwoman or a super-employee, if you will. She is a normal person, who is shocked at the ‘toxic energy’ (to borrow from FISH, another great book) at Zenobia and though not expecting such a state of affairs, nevertheless tries to do something about it. The fact that she succeeds eventually is not important, at least to me. What is important is to undertake every business opportunity as an adventure – as is rightly the theme of this fable.

The book also subtely revisits a long standing debate – when in deep crisis, are outsiders better or insiders. Outsiders come with no baggage, are immediately able to spot the issues and without any sentimental attachments to things around them, call the spade a spade. The insiders, though have obvious advantages in terms of knowing the system well, etc. are often found so much ‘in’ the system that they hardly can see what is wrong with it – just like the frog who gets slow-boiled to death in a pot of water without realizing that the water was getting hotter all the time, albeit too slowly for immediate discomfort.

That brings me to the question: do we know our own zenobias ? Is it possible that we are not even aware of what ails us ? In our hollow pride and ego, we mercilessly push ourselves (and our teams) to deliver business results when there might be deep scars under the surface threatening our own very existance because over the years, we have gotton used to do things in a certain way which worked once but doesn’t work anymore (more importantly, we don’t even know that it stopped working long back). Do we know, for example, our way of project management is causing more harm than good- for we are forever in planning mode ? Do we know if our software development sucks – for all we know, we are constantly spending more time fixing bugs than in writing features that sell ? Do we know if our workplace policies are actually helping people improve their motivation, productivity and teamwork or causing them more discomfort ? Do we know if our business is surviving because of what we do, or despite what we do ? I recommend this book if you have a funny feeling that something is not quite right – hunches are almost often right, despite whatever people might tell you.

The most important takeaway from the book is ‘invent your own future’ – but of course, you must know your Zenobia before you move on to that.

Do you know your Zenobia(s) ?

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