What happens when Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz have a reunion?

by Darcy Hitchcock 

Ever wonder what happened to Dorothy after she woke up in Aunt Em's bed back in Kansas? Let me give you an update.

While she continues to be troubled by her childhood experience, Dorothy now runs a factory in Kansas which manufactures shoes-- ruby shoes, of course. Over the last ten years, her company's market share has been dropping due to off-shore production. Caught in a cyclone of global competition, she worries about making payroll and avoiding layoffs. Her troubles spawn nightmares. Last night, this is what she dreamt.

It was a gray, ominous morning as she drove into the plant parking lot. Seeing the dark clouds boil in the distance, she thought, "How lucky I am to have an assigned parking spot." However, even tornado warnings were not as forbidding as what she saw when she entered the plant. Her employees-turned-Munchkins were walking in a big circle around a pile of damaged shoes muttering "follow, follow, follow, follow," the lilt having long since gone out of their voices. Off in the distance she heard deep voices approaching, singing "oh-EE-oh" as the manager's soles slapped crisply onto the plant floor. They marched past her without looking right or left as they tramped toward their offices. Clump, clump, clump, Oh-EE-oh, oh-EE-oh.

"This is terrible!" Dorothy thought. "The Munchkins look so unhappy. And look at all that
wasted, damaged inventory." she paused. "Just where were the managers going anyway?"
Unsure what to do, Dorothy headed for her office. Absentmindedly, she riffled through her
telephone file until she came across the Wizard in Emerald City. Her eyes began to feel very
heavy. As she put head down on the desk, she thought: "He's so wise. People come from all
around to listen to him speak. Certainly, he can tell me what to do." Now in a dream, Dorothy left her office as if fleeing a tornado.

The Scarecrow

In her dream, she sped down the four-lane highway with the black clouds receding behind her, past the Plains Strip Mall which years ago had been a fertile corn field. Dorothy recalled her friend, Scarecrow, who had wanted a brain. "Funny," she thought. "We could stuff and re-stuff the scarecrow with straw but he was still the same old scarecrow without a brain. Kind of like our company. We keep stuffing people in and moving them around. But they always end up disgruntled and uncaring. What we seem to be missing are the proper mental models, a more effective management philosophy, the proper organizational brain.

"And just as the purpose of the scarecrow was to scare, our organization is set up to drive fear into the workers. Managers have all the power; they hire, fire, appraise, reward, punish. Perhaps the whole premise is wrong. What we need is a new way of thinking about work -- where we share power and responsibility. Perhaps there should be a balance between the needs of the work and the needs of the worker." Excited about being on to something, Dorothy increased her speed past the subdivision which until recently was thickly forested, the ancestral home to Tin Woodman.

The Tin Woodman

Her private conversation continued. "But having a brain in itself isn't enough, for even in the best organizations people interact in disempowering ways." Smiling, she recalled how creaky and cranky Tin Woodman was until she had oiled all his joints. Lacking a heart, he feared he was unable to care for others. "How would Tin Woodman be as a manager without a heart?" pondered Dorothy. "Certainly wielding an ax these days would not be good for morale. But there is more to it than that."

While his exterior seemed imposing, Tin Woodman had been as compassionate and sensitive as anyone with a heart. As a manager, he would have been careful not to take power away from his employees.

How easy it is to tell someone how to do something instead of ask how it should be done. How easy to do for oneself rather than take the time to teach.

Past conversations swept over her. She could hear her own voice say, "I'll take care of it," or
"That'll never work," or "We tried that once," or "I have a better idea." She groaned. Perhaps
creaky old Tin Woodman would have made a better manager than she. Even without a heart, he had sounded more caring. The words he chose were like verbal oil, lubricating and strengthening relationships. "Hmm," she thought, "so what we say is as important as our organizational beliefs."

The Cowardly Lion

Dorothy was almost to the Emerald City turnoff when she passed Drug Enforcement Agency
officials plowing up the poppy fields. How contented Cowardly Lion had looked as he slept in that field, removed from his insecurities and anxieties. Without courage, Cowardly Lion couldn't take action, wouldn't take risk. Then Dorothy remembered the numbed faces on her employees as they repeated the refrain:" follow, follow, follow, follow." Even if she set up the best organizational structure and systems, even if managers verbally supported their employees, they needed self- esteem, confidence, initiative, yes, the courage to act.

Dorothy was so excited by these thoughts, she dashed up the steps to the Wizard's office, eager to share her ideas with him. But Glinda, his administrative assistant, told Dorothy that he couldn't see her without an appointment. "Oh, but I've come such a long way," Dorothy exclaimed. "I wanted his advice on how to empower my people."

"I'm sorry but the Wizard is quite strict about these things."

Tears began to well up in her eyes. "But I think I discovered something wonderful: to be more
competitive I must empower my people and to do that I must do three things:

I must make sure that leadership and responsibility are shared and that all our
organizational systems and practices support that.

I must learn to ask rather than tell, coach instead of do.

I need to build the self-esteem in all my employees so that they can accept the power."

Not appeased by Glinda's knowing smile, she added, "I need the Wizard to tell me if I'm right."

The Wizard's voice boomed from his paneled office. "Come back tomorrow!"
Dorothy gasped.

Hoping to avoid an ugly scene in the waiting room, Glinda shrugged a sincere apology. Then,
after glancing over her shoulder, she whispered to Dorothy, "You know, I've learned quite a bit working in this office over the years," her voice quavery and ethereal. "so many people come to the Wizard when they already have their own answers. Now that you understand the three levels of empowerment, there is much you can do on your own." She paused. "Perhaps it's time to share the power of your ruby shoes."

Darcy E. Hitchcock is president and co-founder of Axis Performance Advisors, Inc. a company
dedicated to leveraging human potential through performance systems, training and team work.
AXIS Performance Advisors
15910 NE 270th St.
Battle Ground, WA 98604