The Parable of the Stationary Log

We have started off the year with another Ropes Course event. This is the fourth time I’ve participated in a Ropes Course event. Every time has been different. I suspect this is due to the composition of the participants, the leadership styles of the facilitators, and the goals of the event.

Wednesday’s version was an abbreviated, half-day session for school building and central service leaders. It was lead by three competent facilitators. The purpose was to build team.


One of the stations on the course is a stationary log. The object is for the 15 or so people on the log to arrange themselves in order by birth date. The participants are allowed a total of 5 touches (basically, hands on log or body parts on ground).

In general, a common initial scenario for this station goes like this:

  • In two or three locations on the log, subsets of participants try to solve the problem locally.
  • Each subset unto itself shows initiative and teamwork.
  • Collectively, however, the subsets—with competing interests—often create disequilibrium on the log.
  • Folks tend to fall off the log, thus accruing touches for the team.
  • The team generally has to start anew, thus using precious time and duplicating effort.

I have found two occasions when you know you are in trouble on that log:

  1. There is limited or no solid communication prior to the sorting out process.
  2. An individual proposes that all on the log work as a cohesive unit . . . moving one team member at a time with all others in support.  In response, charges of micromanagement and over-zealousness fly from others.

In my unending quest for good organizational karma, I like to extend this stationary log scenario to the workplace. What happens when various and well-intentioned subsets of the organization embark upon initiatives without considering unintended consequences to the greater group?

Worse yet, what about the ones who deliberately exclude big-picture repercussions from their narrow worldviews?

The stationary log is on this course for a reason. It can teach teamwork, communication, support, common cause, deliberateness, and calculated risk.  These factors contribute to good organizational karma.


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