Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Philosophy - Dead Horse Management

The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, passed on from one generation to the next, says that when you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. But in modern business (and education and government) because heavy investment factors are taken into consideration, other strategies are often tried with dead horses, including the following:

  1. Buying a stronger whip.
  2. Changing riders.
  3. Threatening the horse with termination.
  4. Appointing a committee to study the horse.
  5. Arranging to visit other sites to see how they ride dead horses.
  6. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.
  7. Reclassifying the dead horse as "living-impaired."
  8. Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.
  9. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase speed.
  10. Providing additional funding and/or training to increase the dead horse's performance.
  11. Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse's performance.
  12. Declaring that the dead horse carries lower overhead and therefore contributes more to the bottom line than some other horses.
  13. Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses.
  14. And, as a final strategy: Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.
Amusing it may be but we see and experience this more often than necessary. We're regularly asked to 'sort out' projects to get them back on track and delivered due to the high levels of investment and stakeholder expectations. In some cases stopping and dismounting a project would make much more sense. This however takes real courage and strength but sometimes the pressure of budgets and expectations can override the sensible option.
What is your experience?


  1. In my opinion... when you quote another writer's material, you should acknowledge the original author. Especially when the material is as clever as this...

  2. You're absolutely right and if you know who the original author is please let me know. It came to me from a friend a number of years ago with the author as anonymous and I should have said so when I posted it.

  3. After doing some googling I've found a reference to an early use, though not origin, of this philosophy on http://www.businessballs.com/quotes.htm
    If anyone has any more information as to its origin, please do let me know. Deanne