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Kill the Snake!

By Joey Havens

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Ross Perot made the saying, “Kill the Snake,” popular during his run for president. He used a story to relay how organizations and government get so consumed by bureaucracy and red tape that they can’t accomplish the simplest tasks that are critical to the mission. 

For our illustration, since I love to fish, we will use the example of killing the snake in reference to us being in a boat. If suddenly a snake drops into the boat with us, what do we do? Kill the snake! However, if we were in the wrong boat, it might require organizing a committee to study the snake. What kind is it? What color? What are our other options to killing the snake? Who are our best snake killers? When should we kill the snake? What should we do with the snake after we kill it? How should we kill it? Is this the environmentally correct solution?

Now back to reality, if there is a snake in our boat, I want to be with team members that key in on the urgency and importance of this issue and take immediate action. Kill the snake! Take action. 

As we face snakes (the challenges) on our leadership journey, we must be responsive and flexible enough to have a team that understands that we must kill the snake and move on. It doesn’t have to be our best snake killer, but someone must always step up and lead. We grow by doing what we have not done before. 

Does this mean everyone should do whatever they want whenever they want? Absolutely not! It does mean that within our mission, roles, and client service expectations, we have a lot of resources and leeway to take action and kill the snake. We don’t need permission to do what we know is mission critical.

There are always going to be guidelines, values, best practices and expectations to help us make the right decisions. For example, we honor our people so we don’t want someone shooting in the boat to kill the snake.  Chances are they are going to shoot one of us. In addition, if they shoot a hole in the boat, we will begin to take on water and our problems will be twofold. So please, no shooting the snake in the boat! 

Let’s be smart snake killers while making sure our boat is safe and stays on course for that next fishing spot. The key is to be rapidly responsive when the solution is clear. 

Nothing feels better than the empowerment to confront our challenges without an overly rigid decision making process. Kill the snake!


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