Here a goose… there a goose… everywhere a goose goose…
Why do Canadian Geese proliferate and survive the way they do? I don’t know about where you live but in Minnesota, we have had an exploding Canadian Goose population over the past several years. When I say exploding… it is a bit of an understatement… those geese are here, there and everywhere! They are taking over ponds, pastures, school playgrounds and suburban yards. When I go running outside, it is literally an obstacle course trying to maneuver around all the goose poop on the paved pathways.
Many of us have heard the comparisons of geese flying in formation to high functioning teams in the workplace and if you look up geese and team building on an Internet search, you can find a myriad of articles explaining how geese behave in their groups and the lessons we can learn and put to use in workplace teams.
I read on The Library of Congress website’s Everyday Mysteries a question “why do geese fly in a V?” and the answer is ” energy conservation and visual assurance”. The article states that each goose flies a little above the bird in front of it, which creates less wind resistance. The geese takes turns going in front and then when one gets tired, it drops back. This one step forward, one step back approach allows the group to fly longer distances before having to stop and take a break… I never thought about it before but geese are brilliant aren’t they?
The benefit of visual assurance explained in the article is this: it is easier to keep track of everyone in the group. It is thought that flying in a V formation can help with “communication and coordination”, comparable to what fighter pilots will do.
Geese make sure that the group stays together and they take the notion of being a team to the extreme.
Last week, I was driving home from work when a gaggle of geese were crossing in front of me on a fairly busy road. One of the goslings was lagging behind as they were waddling across the road so one of the adults turned round and saw the little one might be in trouble. The adult bird ran out onto the road and got behind the immature bird, nudging it across the road as it stayed behind the little gosling, ensuring that it got across the road safely. I am assuming that the term Mother Goose came from the maternal way geese take care of their babies… keeping them out of harms way.
We wonder why this particular bird population has grown so dramatically over the past several years and are almost running we poor humans out of our territory. I personally believe it is because of the vigilant way they protect one another through visual assurance… watching each other’s back all the way…
What lessons can we learn from the Canadian Goose population when looking to have our organizations proliferate dramatically?
- Conserve energy in your organization by ensuring one area does not lose steam and fall too far behind. If your sales folks have been up front and center bringing on the business at break-neck speed, maybe you need to allow the people who are servicing the new business to catch not only their breath but to also catch up their workload so that promises made to the customers can be kept versus plummeting out of control.
- Know where your team is at – at all times. It is important to use and evaluate key performance results to assess how your organization is performing. Exception based reporting is critical to find out early on if a part of the organization (one of your geese) is struggling to stay in formation to what the goals and needs of the organization are.
- Support the people and/or areas of the company that are struggling. If a goose flying in formation is injured or ill, two members of the group will drop out of formation to protect the injured goose until it has recovered. Have you ever had one of your geese (whether it be a team, an individual or a process gone awry) fall away by themselves and never recover? I know that I have seen it happen over the years. I always wondered if we had provided a different level of mentorship and support, would the fallen goose have survived and been a stronger contributor to the team?
How do you think your organization could take lessons from a “gaggle of geese” to improve its growth and footprint in your industry?