Stop Riding Your Dead Horses

Lakotah tribal wisdom says that when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. Makes perfect sense right?

However, in some organizations other (much less sensible) strategies are being tried:

1. Buying a larger whip. 
2. Changing riders.
3. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase performance.
4. Saying things like, “This is the way we have always ridden this horse.” 
5. Provide additional funding and/or training to increase the dead horse’s performance.
6. Conducting a study to see if private contractors can ride the dead horse cheaper.
7. Appointing a committee to study the dead horse and suggest improvements. 
8. Arranging to visit other tribes to see how they ride dead horses. 
9. Creating a training session to improve riding skills. 
10. Revising performance goals for dead horses. 
11. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.

Chances are you can identify a number of dead horses in your organization. Perhaps it is a combative colleague who refuses to adapt, a legacy policy or procedure that no longer provides value or a software system that you continually struggle with. ​

How much time and effort has your organization spent with a horse? I would encourage you to think differently:

Call to Action:

  1. Identify your dead horses and dismount. These dead horses may be processes, people, vendors or software systems. The horse is not going to magically be re-born.
  2. Stop making excuses for poor performance. Stop accepting poor performance.
  3. Make it a point to consistently re-evaluate:
    1. Staff
    2. Processes
    3. Vendors / Partners
    4. Systems

Need motivation?

  • Think of the feeling of dread that comes over you when you need to work with the system, perform an upgrade or explain the system’s shortcomings for the umpteenth time.
  • Think of how working with the combative colleague makes you, your coworkers and most importantly your customers feel when they have to deal with this person.
  • Think of how much time and effort you spend on some outdated legacy policy that adds no value. Now multiply that for each person in the organization.

While easily said and understood, dismounting from your dead horse(s) will be difficult and time consuming but neccessary to have a nimble and high performing organization. This ancient wisdom is as relevant today as as it was 300 years ago.

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