Case Analysis of the Walrus

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Fables for management: The ill-informed walrus

"How's it going down there?" barked the big walrus from his seat on the highest rock near the shore. He waited for the good word.

Down below, the smaller walruses conferred quickly among themselves. Things weren't going well at all, but none of them wanted to tell the Old Man. He was the biggest and wisest walrus in the herd, and he knew his business -- but he had such a terrible temper that every walrus in the herd was terrified of his ferocious bark.

"What will we tell him?" whispered Basil, the second-ranking walrus. He remembered how the Old Man had raved and ranted at him the last time the herd caught less than its quota of herring, and he had no desire to go through that experience again. Nevertheless, for several weeks the walruses had noticed that the water level in the nearby Arctic bay had been falling constantly, and it had become necessary to travel much farther to catch the dwindling supply of herring. Someone should tell the Old Man; he would probably know what to do. But who? And how?

Finally Basil spoke up: "Things are going pretty well, Chief," he said. The thought of the receding water line made his heart grow heavy but he went on: "As a matter of fact, the beach seems to be getting larger."

The Old Man grunted. "Fine, fine," he said. "That will give us some more room." He closed his eyes and continued basking in the sun.

The next day brought more trouble. A new herd of walruses moved in down the beach, and with the supply of herring dwindling, this invasion could be dangerous. No one wanted to tell the Old Man, though only he could take the steps necessary to meet this new competition.

Reluctantly, Basil approached the big walrus who was still sunning himself on the large rock. After some small talk, he said, "Oh, by the way, a new herd of walruses seems to have moved into our territory." The Old Man's eyes snapped open, and he filled his great...
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