Draft horses once were as important to the economy as automobiles are today. Now, their main purpose is to deliver Budweiser and appear in Superbowl ads. Nevertheless, this year at the fair they held a demonstration of horse teams.
They brought 6 teams and carriages into an arena. The first team was a single lead horse followed by two others, all pulling the same wagon. Next, there were two 4 horse teams, and then 2 six horse teams. The final team was a wagon pulled by 6 ponies.
They galloped around the area kicking up dirt to the cheers of the crowd. Then they came to the skill demonstration.
Each driver had to drive his team in a circle around each of the three traffic cones. Then, they had to stop the team, get the horses to back up the wagon so it turned 90 degrees, and then stand off to the side. Basically, they had to execute a K-turn. This is was to show what horse trains used to do every day to back a wagon up to a loading dock.
I always though of horse drawn wagons as clumsy contraptions that did their best when going forward. I never knew they could be handled with such precision. At times, different horses actually need to walk in different directions to position the wagon just right.
The 6 horse teams were the most impressive. The managed turns that would challenge a Honda Civic. The backed the wagon up smoothly and perfectly. And they did it quickly.
The drivers showed amazing skill. It's one thing to pop a car in reverse and turn the wheel. These guys got the same results from 6 strong willed animals who could, at any time, decide they wanted to do something else.
It's been said that small companies are much more nimble than big companies. Large organizations are ultimately doomed to failure in the face of spry competition.
But maybe that perception comes from thinking of large companies as though they are trains or oil tankers. Changing direction takes plenty of time and planning. A lone, nimble rider or sailor has much more flexibility.
But if a company structures itself more like a 6 horse wagon team, then perhaps they can survive in a challenging field. Large numbers of independent characters can work together with the right driver and deliver amazing results.
I think there's a motivational poster in there someplace.