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Juggling Elephants

Posted by: Diane Brady on August 17, 2007

Business readers seem to love fables — those easy-to-read little tales in which fake characters discover some essential truth about business in an engaging little story. Pat Lencioni has it down to an art form, with books such as The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. (His latest: The Three Signs of a Miserable Job)

Now, we have “Juggling Elephants: An Easier Way to Get Your Most Important Things Done—Now!” … It seems safe to assume that the authors think juggling elephants is a bad thing—for your health, if not for the fact that it’s not a typical crowd pleaser in most circus acts. The main character is a guy named Mark who has too much to do, trying to be the circus-master in three rings so to speak.

The resulting story, which could be read by most sixth graders in an hour, reinforces the importance of taking intermissions, putting quality acts (and ones that serve some purpose) in all three rings and giving people a chance to laugh. It all makes sense.

I just found it to be more self-evident than enlightening. The last chapter ends with “Mark vowed never again to forget that he was the ringmaster of his own circus and to get the most important things done.” Wait. There’s actually an “After the Story” bit that ends: “With an other quick hug, Jackie left her dad’s office and headed home. Let the performance begin!”

Am I missing something? I am guilty of juggling elephants with the best of them but this sort of thing seems better suited to ‘quotable quotes’ in Reader’s Digest than a $20 book.

Reader Comments


August 20, 2007 10:45 AM

Who would buy these books? (Diane I hope your copy was a review copy! :-)) And what poorly run company would pass them out to their employees? I'll dump the stocks of those companies faster than you can say "who moved my cheese." What an insult to the average adult worker's intelligence.


September 12, 2007 4:04 PM

Yes,you are missing something. I do not like for the most part, the little fable books. But, by your own admission, you are "guilty of juggling elephants with the best of them." As am I. The principles should not be enlightening - unless you are a six year old - but you (we) obviously have a problem with their application. When you get serious about this issue, this is where this book should be of some help. Good luck!


September 12, 2007 4:31 PM

When it comes to execution, I doubt most people find the formula in a fable.

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