A bellwether is a sheep that leads the flock.

It is a castrated ram, not in charge of the flock but it still has followers, as they shuffle after him sheeplike. No, not sheeplike. Just like the sheep they actually are.

I think it’s the perfect leader. Here is a bit from a mediocre novel called “Bellwether” explaining a bit more

“I think a bellwether’s the same as any other sheep, only more so.  A little hungrier, a little faster, a little greedier.  It wants to get to the feed first, to shelter, to a mate, so it’s always out there in front.[…] Not a lot, If it was a long way in front the flock would have to strike out on their own to follow him, and that would mean thinking for themselves. Just a little bit, so they don’t even know they’re being led.
And the bellwether doesn’t know its leading.”

Best line, last line.

They are used to lead the flock into the slaughter house.

“A curious feature of old sheep slaughter-houses was that the final run before the slaughter-pen had a side gate in the fence, known as a bellwether gate.
Along comes the dopey bellwether down the sheep run, followed by trusting flock, then, at the last moment, wallop!, the shepherd slips the bellwether through the bellwether gate and the other sheep trot on, oblivious to their imminent doom.
The bellwether was then introduced to a new flock and the sinister cycle was repeated.” [link]

Best line, last line.

A leader who leads his flock to disaster and just before the chop, evades disaster and joins another flock to lead them down the same path. And because it always works out right for him, why ever change a winning strategy?

The systems thinking lesson

Deming’s 7 Deadly Diseases! Sounds like  a group of super villains, and they are.

Lack Of Constancy Of Purpose is the big gorilla at the back.
What do you mean “what gorilla?” The most meta-injoke you’ll read in a caption this week.

The one I’m concerned with today is Ending The Mobility of Management. Rubbish name for a super-villain. That one at the back with the floppy hat, it’s probably him.

When managers move on, especially top ones, and new ones arrive, there’s no opportunity for learning, as feedback never happens. The PDSA/PDCA/CPD/Whatever cycle is never complete. Bellwethers are not evil. They just can’t learn.

This entry was posted in leadership, systems thinking, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Bellwether

  1. John Rudkin says:

    Fascinating – and directly comparable to real life situations in many ways. Funnily enough, “Bellwether” can also be using Systems Thinking as his calling bell….. sadly I’ve seen that happen.


  2. Pingback: Zombie Deming advises on the use of targets | thinkpurpose

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