To make a real change, one needs to do more than run away to the Bieszczady Mountains – or to the Fiend Valley, like in the following fairy tale by management expert Monika Kostera. It takes more than growing organic tomatoes instead of ones sprayed with pesticides. We also have to relearn work management. Leadership is something we do together, just like dancing.
Everyone has heard about the Moominvalley, and to give credit where credit is due, that’s probably thanks to the immortal prose of Moominpappa. But not everyone knows about the Fiend Valley. Apart from the usual lot, such as meadow sprites, pixie-lights, and dziwożonas, those pesky swamp demons, it has become home to a colony of big city fiends. This picturesque spot lies quite a bit down south from the Moominvalley, in a significantly milder climate. There is no polar night here, but it can get awfully cold, and the frost can make the trees in the forest creak and squeak. Sometimes it gets so beautiful that all the valley-dwellers become very tender to each other, and that’s when Likho, the resident evil spirit, flies away North (obviously, modern Likhos use an air taxi). But usually it rains, which is the best kind of weather for the fiends, because rain means irrigation. And irrigation is great because the Valley is home to the Cheery Cooperative that runs a modern farm and sells delicious, 100% ecological vegetables. The Cooperative had been working successfully for several years now, but not all was going smoothly. Everyone could feel a storm brewing. No wonder that a very focused crowd of fiends gathered at the annual general assembly.
The first to speak was fiend Dreamalot, for he was the most experienced member of the community. He always spoke first, anyway. He tended to be the last one to voice his concerns, too. And he often took the middle slot, while he was at it. Dreamalot cleared his throat, looked at the gathered faces, and said:
“Dear cooperators, I find your lack of cheer deeply disturbing. Well, that’s not to say I am not proud of you all, because I am. In fact, I am very proud. And impressed. We all escaped the corporate hamster wheel; we have left the house of slavery. We joined our forces and established our very own Merry Cooperative. Everything is up and running; we’re experiencing a period of dynamic growth. Are we doing well?”
“Yes!” they all shouted in fiendish unison.
“So what do you think, we should all be cheery, shouldn’t we?” continued the speaker.
“No,” mumbled an uncertain voice from the corner. All eyes turned to see the young fiend Scoldion, for he was the one to deliver this unfortunate remark. “I mean, yes,” squeaked Scoldion, the tip of his snout turning pink with embarrassment.
“We should,” boomed Dreamalot, answering his own rhetorical question. “And yet, we are not. Fiends and fiendlings, and even the littlest of little’uns go about sour-faced, they sulk and pout at each other all the time. How is that possible? We have everything we dreamed of,” said Dreamalot, raising his hand and his voice in a dramatic build-up. “We have our collective welfare and property; our tomatoes are growing beautifully and selling just as well. So why are we all so miffed?”
“Because you yell at us, so you do,” Scoldion was heard again. This time, he blushed bright red but did not retreat. He even stamped his foot. Quietly, but just as well.
Other fiends watched him for a moment, nodding and whispering, but soon they started murmuring that the kid is right, listen to him, fair point. Dreamalot looked at the crowd with disbelief, his mouth opening and closing like a fish pulled out of water. He blinked. And finally, he spoke.
“Well, you’re right,” he admitted. “I yell. But look, I’m the boss. I have to yell. That’s in my job description.”
Suddenly, the room was in an uproar. All fiends screamed and screeched at the same time. Job or no job, screaming is something every fiend knows how to do from day one. Once they had shouted themselves hoarse, Scoldion spoke again, quietly and cautiously. He did not shout with the rest, so he managed to save his vocal cords for this very moment.
“I think we need to get someone to advise us.”
“Yes! An advisor!” squawked the fiends enthusiastically. Miss Puffbutter suggested Myffke Mymmeli. Surprisingly, everyone agreed straight away, even though nobody knew her, and they all considered lubberkins (for Myffke was a lubberkin, one of those household guardian creatures, also known as a kłobuk) highly unfiendish. Perhaps everyone was too sore from yelling to bother with further disputes.
Myffke was small, but sparkling with fresh energy. She identified the source of the problem in no time, and another general assembly was called.
“Dear cooperators!” she began. “You invited me here to hear the truth, so without further ado, here it comes. First of all, what’s the use of this management pyramid? The cooperative belongs to all of you; it is your shared endeavour. You need no bosses, no yelling. Everything can be done in your own circle. You’re all in this together. No point in exploiting one another. Why in seven hells would you want to replicate that awful corporate structure you escaped? Why play each other dirty just the same as you did back then???”
Dr Auldbogie Fiendman, a former research fellow at the University Corps and an active cooperator, served as a lubberkin-fiendish interpreter:
“Why do you seek hierarchical structure? The objective of the cooperative is the socialization of the means of production. Therefore, hierarchical management is not required. You can introduce a rotational, bottom-up management structure. It is a participation-centred management model based on mutual trust and shared responsibility. Let’s practice alternative approaches instead of clinging to thoughtless isomorphism.”
“That’s it, that’s it!” agreed Myffke, nodding vigorously, even though she hardly understood a word from the old fiend’s translation. “Management is a place, not a person.”
“Management is a relational social role,” interpreted Dr Auldfiend, brimming with joy, and the room exploded with applause.
“Hurrah! Hurrah! What a glorious revolution!” Even Scoldion got carried away by the moment. “Let’s name our tomatoes in honour of this wonderful day. Cheerful Revolution, the new tomato species from our cooperative. May they grow well and prosper!”
Indeed, tomato plants bloomed in the modern glasshouse. And that was how the cheerful revolution came to stay for good in the Fiend Valley.
“Myffke, please, become our secretary!” called the overjoyed fiend Troublekin. Others clapped and whistled in approval.
“You gotta be imping me,” scoffed Myffke, looking daggers.
“Our apologies!” offered someone from the crowd. “We didn’t mean to offend. How about first secretary, then?”
“Oh, ghoul damn!” swore Myffke impatiently, but then she smiled. Fiends will be fiends, and it was clear they meant well. She offered to take on a less hierarchically-prominent role in the cooperative instead. In the end, they agreed on the post of Delegate Zero.
“Long live the cheerful revolution!” shouted Scoldion. Everyone picked up the chant, replacing all the former misery with joy. Once they were done cheering, all the fiends went on to feast on the delicious food, made by Myffke and her lubberkin friends. And they all lived cheerfully ever after.
Is there any moral to this story? You bet there is, and not just one. Let’s present them in bullet points, in a truly fiendish fashion.
First, not everything has to be fiendish. Sometimes, the lubberkin solution is the way to go.
Second, leadership is best when done together, like dancing. It can be performed individually, or collectively, like a carnival or revolution!
Third, organization is like cleaning. It doesn’t have to be done army-style. You don’t have to paint the grass green. Just make sure there is time and place for everything.
Fourth, why the ghoul would you mirror what you dislike; why follow the patterns that freeze your heart and squash joy?
And finally, fifth, lubberkins and anarchists are the best cooks.
Translated from the Polish by Aga Zano