Throughout history, stories have been used to communicate ideas, processes and even warnings. Fairytales and limericks helped children understand the world around them. Many religions used parables to teach people about belief, social behavior and the differences between good and evil. Stories, in any form, create better understanding, especially when associated with common activities in our lives. Some of these stories are analogies to help clarify complex ideas.
Business processes often use analogies to speed the comprehension process. Team sports are a popular theme. Baseball, Football and even Basketball are some of the most commonly used to express teamwork, strategy and tactics. Anyone who has played sports at anytime of their life can relate to this type of analogy. I have my favorite story or parable that speaks to strategy; “The Archer and The Hare.”
I can’t remember when I first hear this story used or even who my storyteller was at the time when it was told, but like all good visual stories, it has stayed with me most of my life. Allow me to share it with you.
Our young archer had practiced his archery lessons for weeks. He used an old flour sack filled with sand as his target. With each pull of the bow-string, he strengthened his arms and with each release of the arrow, sharpened his aim. By the end of four weeks, he had improved his marksmanship so well that he rarely missed his target.
Early one cool spring morning the young archer set out on his first hunt for food for his family. With his quiver filled with six arrows and his bow newly restrung, he set out for his task.
It wasn’t long before he cam upon an open field edged by a scattering of trees. In the middle of the field, sat a large fat hare nibbling on grass stalks. The young archer readied his bow and drew an arrow from his quiver. He slowly notched the arrow and drew back the bow-string. The bow creaked ever so slightly as he pulled on the string.
With the bow fully drawn, he paused, took a slow deep breath and aimed for his target. Just then, the hare began to move. Quickly the archer let fly his arrow. Swiftly through the air it sailed striking the very spot he had targeted, unfortunately the hare had moved and was no longer where the arrow would fall.
Quickly the archer drew a second arrow and pulled back his bow the second time. Once again he took a slow and deep breath to help steady his aim. The hare was now further away, but sitting still in the tall grass. With careful aim, the archer let fly the second arrow. Like the first, it sailed smoothly and with precise intent. As the arrow closed on to its target, a slight gust of wind moved across the field causing the arrow to drift and missing the hare again. The hare bolted to the safety of the tree line.
With haste, the archer drew a third arrow and began tracking the hare. With each bound, the young archer waited for his moment. The string was taut and the arrow ready. Now, only a few feet from the safety of the woods, the hare dashed headlong. The archer released the arrow. A twang rang out from the string and the arrow sailed through the air.
The archer was sure he would hit his target this time. The hare closed rapidly to the woods edge. The arrow approached at great speed. The tree line was mere inches ahead and the hare made his final leap.
The arrow struck hard and secure. The hare tumbled into the underbrush of the woods out of sight of the archer. He rushed to the woods edge. He didn’t find his arrow in his target, but stuck to a low hanging branch. A branch the archer did not see in his rush to shoot his third arrow at a fleeing target.
Upset and sadden, the young archer returned home empty-handed. Seeing this, his father sat him down and ask the boy to share his tale of the hunt. Bashfully, the boy spoke of the hare and the three arrows. He told how the first was on target, but the hare moved away. The second was a bit further shot, but the hare laid still. It would have struck, but a slight wind sent the arrow off course. The third was shot in haste, striking a tree limb he did not see.
The father smiled. “What you experienced was not uncommon.” he reassured his son. “You see, you took your first shot, aiming where the target was, not were it was moving to.” The boy nodded in agreement.
“Your second shoot, was a longer shot, but you did not the wind changing the direction.” Again the nodded in agreement.
“And you last shot was done in haste. You did not look broader to see if anything would affect the path of the arrow,” stated the father. With a smile, he looked at the boy and raised a net full of fish. “Its alright. We have food for today, but tomorrow, we’ll go out together and find that hare.”
Together, the two sat and talked. The boy laughed as his father shared stories of similar experiences he had as a young hunter. The talked well into the evening and the boy feeling wiser for the words of his father.
Well, I may not be the best story-teller nor have the story as colorful as told to me, but I made sure to cover the three aspects the story focuses on about strategy. The first issue is that of anticipation of your targets. Make sure to plan for movement. As a famous hockey player once expressed, “You skate to where the puck will be, not where it has been.”
The second issue is about understanding the conditions around your target and how they will influence your strategy moving forward. Allow for adjustments when needed and compensate for these conditions when all possible.
The last issue, I feel, is the greatest issue facing achieving your target. Not watching those conditions around you as your target moves. Be aware of obstacles that move into your path. Take a broader view of your strategy and see what may create obstacles that could end your path to the target.
o to those planning a strategy or are working through a new strategy, remember the advice from the father to the young archer, plan for influences, aim ahead of the motion and always view with a wider eye.
Good luck and happy hunting.