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Business tips, fractured fables with Bullwinkle & Co.

When a certain lady from Chicago appears on the cover of her magazine, wearing mittens made by the Frostbite Falls Mitten Co., Sherman, the protege of the erudite beagle Mr. Peabody, calls that circumstance lucky for the company.

Motivational Secrets
of a Chief Executive Moose

By John Hoover, Ph.D.; St. Martin's Press, 240 pp. $23.95

nolead ends nolead begins

Reviewed by Cecil Johnson

When a certain lady from Chicago appears on the cover of her magazine, wearing mittens made by the Frostbite Falls Mitten Co., Sherman, the protege of the erudite beagle Mr. Peabody, calls that circumstance lucky for the company.

"Perhaps too lucky, Sherman. A stroke of luck like that might seem like a dream come true for most companies. But, in reality, it could be a waking nightmare. Fortunately, Bullwinkle is coming along nicely with his people skills, and it's just in time," Mr. Peabody responds.

The learned, calabash-smoking canine and his human best friend, as millions of television viewers around the world know, are members of the dramatis personae of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.

Organizational-behavior specialist John Hoover has, with permission of the survivors of the creator of Bullwinkle J. Moose, Rocket J. Squirrel, Boris Badenov, Natasha Fatale, and a cast of dozens, appropriated those characters for use in his latest book of business advice, Bullwinkle on Business.

Mr. Peabody would probably give Hoover an "A" for this achievement, bearing in mind that many efforts at making such business fables fall flatter than a moose-mashed marshmallow.

Like the television show about the somewhat obtuse moose and his flying-squirrel pal, the story line of this animated business analogy is corny, outrageously unrealistic and, at times, fiendishly clever. Much of the practical wisdom embedded in it is right on target.

Speaking of Target, it is one of the companies in the fable that has submitted a huge order for mittens from the small company headed by CEM (Chief Executive Moose) Bullwinkle. Target wants 5,000 pairs per week. J.C. Penney wants 2,000 pairs per week. And Nordstrom wants 1,000 pairs per week.

The problem: Before the unnamed talk-show host with the magazine bearing her name went public with her mitten preference, the Frostbite Falls Mitten Co. was capable of producing only 100 pairs of the hand-knitted mittens per week.

Everyone panicked, and Bullwinkle called a meeting to address the challenge. He showed off his growing people skills by accidentally turning on some polka music, which caused everyone to dance until they were so exhausted, they had to sit still and discuss the matter.

After weighing all their options and assessing all their strengths and weaknesses, the citizens of Frostbite Falls and the employees of the company voted to "mechanize."

Bullwinkle added: "That's right. And we need to start using knitting machines, too."

That decision occurs in the episode titled: "Involve the Team When Threats and Opportunities Appear, or Somebody Call the SWOT Team." SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

There are 10 episodes, all of which have similarly double-decked titles and are intended to shed light on different aspects of conducting business successfully. Among the other episodes are:

"Develop a Personal Vision, or Tell Me Again Why I'm Doing This."

"Develop a People-Centric Business Concept, or Cross Your Fingers and Hope Somebody Out There Likes This."

"Get the People Who Know Involved, or A Great Team Beats a Great Moose Every Time."

"Meet the Competition Where It Lives, or What's That Blowing in From Siberia?"

What is blowing in from Siberia are some cheap Pottsylvanian Paw Warmers manufactured in plants run by the no-goodniks Boris and Natasha. The knockoff mittens are made of steel wool because there are no sheep in Pottsylvania. But they pose a threat to the Frostbite Falls company because they are competing on price points.

Boris and Natasha took the idea for making mittens back to Pottsylvania after working as consultants for the Frostbite company. It is noteworthy that Hoover, a consultant, displays a bit of disdain for that profession. This shows in an exchange between Rocky and Bullwinkle:

ROCKY: "It's more important for our team members to be motivated than to have our consultants motivated."

BULLWINKLE: "But my consultants are paid to tell me what I want to hear."

Bullwinkle on Business is a good refresher course for entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and others in management and leadership positions who may have become too set in the ways of doing things. They should first read the fable all the way through and then go back, read the straight commentary, and do the exercises.