Funerals for Fish

Valentine died.  We think he died yesterday although it may have been the night before.

We haven’t told the kids.

We also have not disposed of Valentine so he’s still in his bowl.  They haven’t noticed.

But we know they’ll be upset when we lovingly tell them about fish, and how sometimes they die and that a fish funeral involves flushing.

As leaders, managers and change agents we struggle with the need for fish funerals all the time.  And we often don’t handle them well.

Because we feel guilty that we didn’t take better care of the (project, relationship, process, performance)

Because we know that, even if the (staff, colleague, manager, customer) wasn’t terrifically involved, they’ll have a reaction that we’re going to have to deal with.

Because we’re not ready to decide whether we should revive, replace or bury the thing.

And although we know, rationally, that if we don’t do something quickly it’s going to start getting gross, and worse…

…we wait.

Management Lesson:

1. Take care of your fish.  If your fish (projects, relationships, processes or performance) are important to your business then give them the attention they require to meet your business goals.

2. If you are not taking care of your fish, ask yourself why and do something about it. Stop the project, repair the relationship, improve the process or manage the performance.

3. If a fish dies, deal with it quickly so that it doesn’t start to stink.  Communicate to all stakeholders early, often and transparently.

4. Just because the fish was only $4.99 and the kids like having a fish does not mean you should get a new one.  Evaluate your current business needs and determine what projects, relationships, processes or performance are required to support your goals now.  It may be time for a new direction.

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