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    November 5th, 2010

    ♬  Don’t dream it – be it…♬

    Music and lyrics by Richard O’Brien, from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

    Rocky Horror Picture Show Poster

    In watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show this Halloween with a fully-engaged set of friends, it occurred to me that the movie is actually a management lesson in cinematic form. Work with me here!

    The movie starts with Brad and Janet approaching a dark and foreboding castle after their car has a flat. They are, in effect, the new set of eyes having an unexpected first glimpse inside an existing organization. On gaining entry to the castle and seeing its bizarre occupants, they get the distinct impression that they have just done a ‘time warp’ into a new dimension. This is not unlike someone’s first impression on joining a dysfunctional organization.

    The cast of characters include Frank-n-Furter (“Frank”) who is obviously the leader of this group, Riff-Raff, his trusted second-in-command, Riff-Raff’s sister, Magenta, and others. On being invited up to Frank’s lab to ‘see what’s on the slab’, they meet Rocky, Frank’s latest creation. This is obviously Frank’s pet project that is being paraded to the larger audience for the first time with the express purpose of gaining wide appreciation and acceptance.

    Unfortunately for Frank, Eddie, an underling whom Frank tried to marginalize by putting into cold storage after using his brain, emerges and disrupts Frank’s event. In retaliation, Frank murders him with an ice-axe.

    In subsequent events, Brad and Janet, being the new kids on the block, are in turn, seduced by numerous parties, including Frank. This is not unlike the push-and-pull that occurs when someone enters a new organization – there is a subtle seduction and call to join the different cliques that may exist therein.

    At this point Dr. Everett Scott, an outsider, enters the castle at the behest of the now-deceased whistle-blower Eddie, to investigate what is going on. This is not unlike a trouble-shooter being sent to a errant department to try to bring them back into the wider organization.

    On learning of the association between Dr. Scott, Brad and Janet, Frank turns on Brad and Janet and suspects them of entering his castle and secretly working against him. As a result, Frank chases everyone back into the lab and tries to take control the situation via his Medusa Transducer, forcing Janet, Brad, Dr. Scott, Rocky, and Columbia to perform his bidding. This is equivalent of a leader attempting to use managerial authority to impose a top-down solution onto a situation that is increasingly spiraling out of control in a last-ditch attempt to keep his job.

    Having seen enough, Riff Raff and Magenta stage a coup and overthrow Frank’s obvious excesses and restore order. In the process they kill Columbia, Rocky, and Frank (equivalent to ending their careers), chuck out Brad, Janet and Dr. Scott (who didn’t really belong in the organization anyway) and return the remaining people back to the home planet.

    What are the lessons here?

    For one, if you are going to start a pet project, ensure that you have top-level support at the outset, or you are going to find that the organization will work against you.

    Secondly, don’t use people (like Eddie) and then cast him aside. He may not have power but he can call in others who will want to know what has been going on. Eddie may have friends in the organization such as Columbia who will take offense at Eddie’s shoddy treatment and provide support as well.

    Third, as Jimmy Durante said: “Be nice to people on your way up because you meet them on your way down.”
    Frank treats Riff-Raff abysmally with the not-unexpected consequence that Riff-Raff turns on Frank when given an opportunity.

    Fourth, an organization will put up with dysfunction from one of its departments for only so long. Sooner or later someone will be sent in to investigate and clean house.

    Fifth, if you are the new into an organization and you get the shivers from your first impressions, you are probably right in following your instincts to flee at all costs. Your later experiences may be even scarier than your first ones but at that point trying to extricate yourself will be even harder.

    Sixth, never underestimate the amount of paranoia and suspicion that could be present in a dysfunctional organization. In some cases that may be the overriding culture.

    Seventh, trying to restore order by decree when you have lost the implicit trust and support of your workers will not work. Leadership must be earned and it is not just a question of authority.

    The final lesson?

    Despite the example of the downfall in Frank-N-Furter’s career, when looking at a bright new idea – don’t just dream it – by careful planning and the application of emotional intelligence, people and organizational skills, project management and change management principles, you can be your dream!

    This entry was posted on Friday, November 5th, 2010 at 4:46 pm and is filed under Change Management, Firm Governance, humour, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Tips. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

    One Response to “Rocky Horror as a Management Lesson…”
    1. David Bilinsky - Thoughtful Legal Management Says:

      […] am pleased to announce that my blog post “Rocky Horror as a Management Lesson” has now been reprinted in the American Bar Association’s ezine “Law Practice […]

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