The Highlander principle


Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.

Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle: when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.

Both can’t win. Only one can exist,  the opposite of co-existence.

This is command and control thinking and systems thinking.  They are the opposite of each other,  in every respect they are mirror image positions on every aspect of work. One liberates the system to achieve purpose, the other limits it.


This isn’t learnt from a book, it’s learnt from the work. It’s not the latest fad, it’s the always existent reality. However, I’ve had people of a C&C persuasion try to tell me off for having such a black and white perspective on things like this. For example…

“well there can be some good ways of doing performance appraisals. If you treat it as coaching or an opportunity to take a wider look at a persons challenges they’ve faced and their overall performance of the previous year

An attempt to strike a balance, appear reasonable and make the best of things. It’s complete bollocks.

The only reason this thinking can appear flexible is because there is no core. It’s not based on learning about reality, it is based on current thinking, what seems best and common sensical given the core assumptions about how work works.

If you don’t study how it really DOES work, then you’ll be stuck with the assumptions in place of knowledge, and assumptions can come in any shape or colour you desire, without knowledge to contradict and inform. For example, if you know that the vast majority of variation in performance is caused by system conditions in the work, then you know you’d be wasting your time having little chats away from the work.
Once you’ve learnt that some things DO work and others DON’T, then there
is the black and there is the white.


This way for knowledge!


This way for opinion!

This entry was posted in command and control, systems thinking, thinking and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Highlander principle

  1. roberto says:

    once upon a time I talk about this story of lion and gazelle. The post
    is in italian. I’ve no time to translate. I hope that google translator will work properly


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