A Corporate Parable
The Making of a Successful Queen Bee
© 1998 Joan-Marie Moss
Once upon a time there was a very wise queen bee. She oversaw the biggest and busiest beehive in the entire country and was the envy of all who manufactured honey The queen bee, Esmerelda, was a most unique ruler. When she was very young, her mother decided to place Esmerelda in the care of Lucinda, a wise old drone who was particularly well versed in the traditions of the hive. Drones, you remember, are worker bees — not at all royalty.
Lucinda took Esmerelda out to gather pollen. She taught her how to appreciate hard work…how to find the lushest flowers ripe with pollen. She taught Esmerelda that while gathering pollen, she was helping to make flowers more beautiful than the world had ever seen before. She taught Esmerelda the traditional dance of celebration that each bee dances when returning to the hive. She taught Esmerelda that, in her travels and through her hard work, she would one day be responsible for building a strong hive that could stand up against the cruelest of weather.
But when Esmerelda was very young, Lucinda died. That very same day her mother died, too. Suddenly Esmerelda was responsible for leading her hive to growth and prosperity. Other drones saw this as an opportunity to become very rich and powerful. In a flurry of activity, hundreds of old drones surrounded Esmerelda telling her how to behave and how she to rule her hive.
“Esmerelda,” they said, “Now you must eat well and create hundreds and hundreds of worker bees like your mother who was good at her work. But you must do more. She produced 50,000 worker bees. That is not enough. You must produce 150,000.”
“This is going to be a real challenge,” Esmerelda thought. “Winter will be here very soon. My dear old Lucinda was very wise. These ancients must be as wise as she. I’d best do as they say.”
So Esmerelda ate, laid eggs and sent worker bees out in droves.
“The worker bees aren’t working fast enough, Esmerelda, they aren’t feeding you properly,” her self-appointed counselors insisted.
“But surely, they are doing wonderful work”
“No,” her new drones insisted. “We must set standards. It’s not enough to visit each flower savoring its beauty….they must double their volume. There’s no time for nonsense.
“Tell the worker bees to light on each flower. But, they are not to tarry.fly straight away back to the hive before going on to a new flower.
Esmerelda passed the edict. For a while it appeared that this was the right thing to do. Esmerelda had much more food and was now producing many more worker bees.
But then, the old drones grew impatient, “Esmerelda, this isn’t going to work, the worker bees are growing tired. All this flying back and forth is interfering with the stats …. issue a new edict. Say they must visit three flowers on each trip instead of one. But, they must take no longer than they did when visiting one flower.”
And so Esmerelda dictated. The worker bees complied for they loved Esmerelda. They cut the time they spent at each flower and they hurried to gather pollen at three flowers before returning to the hive. They started losing pollen along the way for, in their haste, they didn’t allow the pollen to stick properly to their hairy backs. But that didn’t matter. The stats showed that now Esmerelda had even more food to eat.
She was now laying more eggs and hatching more worker bees. But she was getting fat and lazy. It was becoming more difficult to keep up the pace. At the same time the worker bees were so busy rushing about that they didn’t have time to make the beeswax needed to keep the hive strong.
Still, the old drones weren’t happy.
“More, Esmerelda….more. We’ve got to terminate the traditional celebration dance that the worker bees indulge in when they return to the hive. It wastes too much time.”
Esmerelda felt sick. Yet, she trusted that the old drones knew what was best. So she ordered the worker bees to double their efforts. “Winter’s coming,” she said, “There’s no time to lose.”
The worker bees now barely lit on each flower….the pollen was no longer being distributed as it had been in the past. And now, without the celebration dance, each bee spent more time trying to locate rich harvests of pollen without guidance.
“Who cares,” said the old drones. “More…faster…We must teach them to compete. It’s not good enough to share information openly with each other. Make them push to become better than the rest.”
Pretty soon the worker bees started dropping from exhaustion. They just never made it back to the hive. Without sharing information about their travels, many got lost while searching for flowers rich for harvest. They now believed that knowledge is power and, so, not to be shared with others. They took less time to mold strong beeswax. There was, after all, no reward for making quality foundations. The new partitions in the hive became weaker and weaker.
Esmerelda no longer could produce or care for all the new worker bees she was creating. Those that she could care for were sent out long before their wings had dried and they never returned to the hive…in fact, they never made it to the flowers.
One day, a terrific storm swept over the country. The newer partitions in the hive, not made in the tradition of quality that had become the hive’s trademark, washed away. Still, the worker bees couldn’t stop. They had to compete. Already weighed down with pollen, they dropped to the ground, soaked with rain, and drowned in puddles beneath the flowers.
When the storm passed, Esmerelda looked around. She had nothing left but a very small shell of the old hive, hundreds of old drones and two hundred newly hatched worker bees.
“Get those worker bees busy,” insisted the old drones. “There’s no time to lose. Get busy and lay more eggs, Esmerelda.”
Esmerelda knew that something was very wrong. The drones showed her the stats.
But Esmerelda looked around and saw that there was no longer any hope or enthusiasm or joy in the hive. “When we took the time to visit each flower and construct strong beeswax we grew and we guaranteed that we’d have a bountiful crop from year to year. When we danced in celebration and shared information, we enjoyed our work and we were more productive,” she said. “On the one hand we have worked harder but on the other hand we have less than when we started.”
“Numbers don’t lie,” insisted the drones.
“But still everything is gone and it will take several seasons to recoup the losses we’ve suffered since I began my reign as queen bee. This isn’t what Lucinda taught me. I’ve forgotten… But what was it? I can’t remember.”
Esmerelda thought and thought. She listened to the old drones tell her all about how she could only get powerful by mass-producing more worker bees and by making them work more efficiently. The more the buzzed, the more she thought about her loving Lucinda.
“That’s it!” shouted Esmerelda. “Lucinda never talked about efficiency…Never mentioned speed or competition. She always stressed cooperation and sharing. We all did our work to the best of our ability. We took time to gather and scatter pollen among the flowers; and, returned home with abundance. We danced with celebration and with the news of where the rich pollen deposits were to be found. We all grew and prospered. And, we were all happy. We’ve lost that. Now we have nothing.”
“No longer will I make edicts that contradict our traditions,” said Esmerelda. “You will go out with the worker bees and gather pollen,” she told the old drones. “I won’t listen to you until you’ve spent time working with the rest. From now on, I will trust the worker bees to do their jobs. I will attend to my work of raising more worker bees; but, I will care for them and nurture them until they are strong enough and wise enough to pollinate each flower according to tradition. I will tell them of the joy that comes from work well done, as Lucinda taught me. I will teach them to appreciate the flowers and to take pride in building a strong hive.”
By the time winter came, the hive was once more a bustling community. It had all the resources it needed to survive the bitter cold until the bees could once again share the joy of pollinating the flowers throughout the countryside.
And that is how Esmerelda grew to be a very old and a very wise queen bee, admired by all the bees in the country for her wisdom and her great fortune.
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