Thursday, June 23, 2011

Strategy and Monty Python’s Dead Parrot Sketch

I was in a meeting with an organization and their PR firm a couple of days ago to attempt to save a company that had flat lined when all of a sudden I felt like I had been written into Monty Python’s “Dead Parrot Sketch”.

For those who are not familiar with the sketch, John Cleese plays the role of a guy who bought a parrot at a pet shop but the parrot that had been sold to him was dead from the start.  When he returns it to the store, the store owner does everything he can to prove that the bird is not really dead but is resting.  If you are interested in the clip, I have a link to it at the end of this blog entry.

The organization I was speaking to was in real trouble, hemorrhaging money for years and with no semblance of any type of strategic plan or tactical roadmap in any area including corporate, finance, product development, competitive analysis, sales, etc.

The reason they had no strategy was because the PR firm in question had challenged the need for strategy some years before.  Apparently they had reasoned then that it was better to craft a strong branding strategy than it was to set strategy around things that might be impossible to attain.  Plus, it seems that the financials for this organization looked pretty bad a couple of years ago and it was more fun to dream about pretty promotions than stark realities.  “You’ve got to think positive” was the mantra of the PR guy.

As I listened to this, I couldn’t help but think of the “Dead Parrot Sketch”.  While John Cleese was describing how his parrot was dead, the pet shop owner, ever the spin master, was complimenting the  bird on it’s beautiful plumage.  When Cleese pointed out that the bird never moved, the pet shop owner indicated that it was resting after a long squawk.  Finally, Cleese said that the only reason the bird was sitting on its perch was because it had been nailed there, to which the pet shop owner indicated that if he didn’t nail the bird to the perch, it would have “muscled its way through the bars”.

Fortunately or unfortunately, reality is not always pretty or fun and spinning it to look like that which it is not is not helpful or useful.  It therefore makes sense that the process of strategic planning must be grounded in reality (even when the reality is not pretty), otherwise the results of the organization will be  haphazard at best and probably fatal in the long run. 

Casting a bright, empowered future is fun and exhilarating.

However, if we don’t accept reality in assessing our as-is situation or we choose to spin it to look like something else, then we have no hope of getting to the desired outcome that we dream about.

In fact, we may have a dead parrot on our hands.

Beautiful plumage … but still dead.

In service and servanthood,


My Musings-in-a-Minute entry for “Strategy and Monty Python’s Dead Parrot Sketch” is the same as this one and can be found here.

Here is the clip – warning – strong language in parts.


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