Once upon a time a training consultant was asked to work with an ancient and honourable mounted regiment.
The regiment had a long tradition and many effective plans and strategies honed over a hundred years of operation. In earlier days, dashing officers had ridden into battle on horses while their men towed the early cannon that proved so decisive in their history.
These days they were more likely to be found riding tanks and armoured vehicles but the dress uniforms were still worn proudly on special occasions.
As part of his induction the consultant was shown all the sights and sounds of the regiment in action, including, during his first week, a gunnery demonstration using the light and heavy artillery that the regiment now carried with them.
As they approached the guns, the General who was accompanying him proudly explained that he was about to see an example of teamwork and effective training at its best.
Each gun crew was comprised of six men, each with an assigned task who worked together to maintain fast and accurate fire under battle conditions. As the consultant watched them in action he couldn’t help noticing the sixth man.
Five of the gun crew were busy, aligning, loading, checking, firing etc. but No. 6 appeared to do nothing other than stand to attention slightly away from the rest of the team.
The consultant leant across to the General and asked "What does No. 6 do?".
The General looked hard and swallowed (he didn’t know!). He called his junior officer over and asked him the same question "What does No.6 do?". He didn’t know either.
They even asked No.6. But he didn’t know either. "Just following orders, Sir!"
Eventually, they found a grizzled old NCO with 30 years service who explained.
Can you guess what the job of No. 6 was?
You see, in earlier days the cannon were towed around by horses. Trouble was, if you fired a cannon near a horse it was liable to bolt. So all gun crews had a No.6 and it was his job to hold the horses.
For 100 years, No.6 had faithfully stood there, waiting to hold the horses, while times, circumstances and priorities had all changed around him. Trouble was, no one had thought to tell him. And he’d been well trained not to ask searching questions - that was trained out of him during induction. Afflicted by the curse of "We've always done it that way" or "They wouldn’t let us change it." many had walked right by the waste of manpower and talent shrugging their shoulders.
Everywhere you go, in whatever organisation, you can find habits, positions, behaviours, meetings, reports and a host of other things that are just like No.6. Once they had meaning and now they no longer do.
This week, why not make it your mission to hunt down No.6 in whatever form he appears and when you find him, assassinate him (or if you prefer, retrain him to do something useful!)