Today when I was out for lunch, I remember an old children story that I have read. I found an English translation here.  This story is written by a famous Danish Poet Hans Christian Andersen 

Plot Summary

There was a king who spends all his life getting new clothes, that he either cared about soldiers and did not like to watch plays. His only interest is to parade himself with his new clothes where he goes.

Then comes a pair of swindlers came to the town where this king ruled, they convinced everyone that they are weavers, and declared they could manufacture the finest cloth to be imagined. Their colours and patterns, they said, were not only exceptionally beautiful, but the clothes made of their material possessed the wonderful quality of being invisible to any man who was unfit for his office or unpardonably stupid.

The King was delighted about this, and wanted this mystical clothes. Because he feel that it is nice to have it, and he gave the weavers a large sum of money and told them to begin work. They set up 2 looms, and asked for the most expensive silk and the most precious gold cloth. They got rid of the cloths and silk, and proceeded to work with the empty looms. All night long the loom sound could be heard

The King decided to check on the swindlers, and since the clothes can only be seen by wise and intelligent people, therefore he sent his most honest and wisest minister to visit the weavers. The minister cannot see the cloth, but however, the swindlers insisted that there is something in the loom, and the minister, fearing that the reason why he cannot see the cloth, is because he is not intelligent enough for his office, pretended that he is able to see the cloth.

He came back and tell the king how remarkable it looks. As well as the swindlers request for more silk and gold cloth. After that the king send another honest courtier to see, and like the previous, he was unable to see the cloth, yet he commented that it look nice

Later on the King visited the swindlers with the 2 minister, and they both commented how beautiful the cloth is, and now the king, unable to see the cloth started to get worried. “Is this a sign that I am not intelligent enough for my office?”. The king decided to pretend that he sees it, and commented that the cloths is very beautiful, and he even appointed the swindlers “Imperial Weavers”.

Then the swindlers continue with their work, cutting and snipping the air, pretending that there are cloths, until the clothes is finally completed. They presented the clothes to the king. And the tried to put it on for the king. Therefore the king undressed, and put on this invisible clothes. Everyone around the king commented that the clothes is very beautiful. The king wanted to go on a procession, and his Chamberlains immediately move forward, pretending to hold on to the tail of his garment.

Now the king begin his procession, and all the crowd commented, how beautiful the garment was, that this new suit is incomparable, there is nothing like it. Nobody wish to let each other know that they were all seeing nothing. Never in history was the Emperor so admired for this new clothes.

Finally, a little child whispered to his father, “But he has nothing on at all”.  the Father decided to whispered to the one beside him, until everyone in the street is aware of the problem. When the king heard this, he had a feeling that they are right, but he thought to himself that he must bear it up to the end, so his chamberlains and him walked with greater dignity. With all the chamberlains walking behind him carrying a train of clothes that doesn’t exist.

How does this story relate to the business world?

Before I begin drawing lessons from this, lets now picture the characters of the story, into the actual work environment
1. The King represents the most important Chair person of a company
2. The Honest and Wise ministers are the next level CEO, CIO etc
3. The Swindlers are the business owners reporting to the high management
4. The general populace are the typical workers in your organisation
5. The child are the people who are brave enough to admit the situation within the organisation.

Many a times, because of many reasons, the top management of the company now does not pay attention to where the profits really are. Hence they fill up many positions using the Sukhomlinov effect. they hire base on incorrect measure, and fill up important positions with people with qualifications but no battle experience.  They surrounded themselves with such management, that are usually afraid to be looked stupid (Remember the honest courtier and the minister). 

These whole group then decided to look for people to lead their businesses, claiming to have 40 years experience and 30 years experience, without remembering this simple truth.

“It is possible for one to work for 40 years, doing the same thing and which usually amounted to 1 year experience. Vice Versa, it is possible to find a guy who work a role of 40 people for 1 years (Which is resulted from many cost cutting measures) . which in turn gives you 40 years of experience. ”

Therefore, the wrong people are selected to work on the business. Some business owners  tries to send their honest courtiers (affectionately known as top management) to check on the business. The top management, fearing to look stupid before the general populace, tried very hard to make sense of the swindlers work, which resulted to the creation of the magical dress.

While the company is parading herself naked before the public, how many of the workers who dared to speak out ended up persecuted in the end? So what happened to the real people whom should be trusted?

I remember the words of one of my CTO, “I am allergic to the word NO”, “Why are you all so negative? We will have results” , how they praise people who did not dare to warn the business of the coming risk, and how they fired people who took the initiative to warn the owners while in the process keep more and more swindlers beside themselves, then lamenting that they are unable to survive the crisis.

It is hope that businesses stop behaving like the king in this story, who choose to parade himself naked, rather then taking swift and effective steps to rectify the problem. Perhaps by doing so, you can save your businesses and the jobs of others

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