There was a plane flying high over the jungle. On board the plane was a pilot, six crew members and a hundred and ten passengers. On the passengers the crew depended for their livelihood and on the passengers the crew fawned. The passengers had paid a lot of money for their seats and the pilot always tried to please all of the passengers all of the time, even if this was patently impossible.
Now, the pilot not only tried to please each and every passenger all the time, but he also tried to please the owner of the airline. The owner had drummed it into the pilot that the first purpose of an airline, or any business for that matter, is to make money.
So it chanced on that fateful day that the pilot had been so busy making certain that his passengers were all happy with the service they received, and that his airline was making the maximum possible profit that he had overlooked the relatively important task of filling the plane’s fuel tanks with fuel. As a natural consequence of not being able to run on air, and without a filling station for miles, the engines stopped working and the pilot, his crew, and his fawned-upon passengers found themselves making an unscheduled stop in the middle of the jungle.
As the plane came down in the trees, the pilot noticed that the jungle was unusually infested with all manner of wild and dangerous beasts. There were countless tigers, leopards, crocodiles and poisonous snakes staring hungrily up at them as the plane crashed down among them into the thick canopy of trees.
Now the pilot was a very good pilot. He was as experienced at being a pilot as he was at making a profit for his company and he could fly a plane as well as he could please the most obstreperous passenger. And because he was a very good pilot, he managed to land the plane in the wild animal infested jungle without injuring a single passenger or member of the crew.
The plane did not fare as well as its passengers. Its wings were torn off, much as a child might tear off the wings of a captive fly. Its body was ripped open like a tin of sardines. The sardines, in the shape of the passengers, were left gazing out of the gaping side of the plane at hoards of wild beasts. The beasts were advancing slowly among the trees. Not a few of the passengers were a little disappointed that the beasts were not rescue workers coming to render aid but were hungry carnivores attracted to an easy meal.
The pilot, being a good pilot, and being firmly in command, began to give his orders. A case of guns and ammunition was pulled from the hold. A chest of maps, compasses and sundry survival equipment was also produced. The pilot handed out the guns and ammunition to the crew and reassured the passengers that there was nothing whatever to be alarmed about and that normal service would be resumed as soon as possible.
The crew, most of whose experience of weaponry was inadequate for the situation, fumbled with the guns and spilled their bullets onto the floor. Only one of them, a quiet, dependable man who had never been anything other than the perfect crew member, quickly loaded his gun, cocked the firing mechanism and began shooting the advancing carnivores, scattering the ones that escaped a bullet in panic.
“What on earth are you doing?” demanded the pilot.
“Don’t worry,” said the man with the gun. “I used to be a soldier. I’m fully trained in the use of guns like these. I can show everyone how to use them if you like. I can also use the maps, the compasses and the survival equipment to help us escape from this jungle safely.”
The pilot shook his head and frowned. “That’s bad practice for a member of the crew,” he said. “You’re not to do that again.”
“But I know what I’m doing,” said the soldier.
“Yes, but we don’t,” said the pilot, waving a hand at the other crew members. “We need to start slowly; make sure that we are consistent in our approach.”
“Consistent?” said the soldier.
“Of course,” said the pilot. “We can’t all be geniuses with guns like you. But you can try not to be better than the rest of us, until we all learn how to shoot.”
“So if I see a tiger, I can’t shoot it?” asked the soldier.
“You can shoot at it,” said the pilot. “One shot only, and make sure you miss like the rest of us would. That way the passengers will see that we are all acting together. This is no place for skilled mavericks like yourself.”
“If you don’t need someone skilled now, you never will,” said the soldier.
“It’s my plane and I’m the captain,” said the pilot. “I’m in charge and you will do what I say. Shooting all the bullets in one go is bad practice.”
“Why?” asked the soldier.
“Because I say so,” said the pilot, trying to appear as forceful as possible.
“That’s madness,” said the soldier.
“It may be madness,” said the pilot, “but it’s company policy. I’ve been to the management meetings and I know what the policy is. You don’t.”
“It’s getting dark,” said the passengers.
Night came as it had always done since before the jungle was there and long before the animals had seen a larder of fresh meat drop from the sky into their midst.
In the morning, after the screaming had been replaced by the song of the morning birds, all the animals were sleeping off a heavy meal. Only the pilot’s hat remained as a testament to the failure of company policy.
A few days later, the soldier found himself in a small town on the coast from where he could catch a steamer back to civilisation. He had used the skills he had to save himself from the fate of the hundred and sixteen packed lunches he had left back in the jungle.
The moral of the story is, always make full use of the skills of others and never try to make them conform to the lowest denominator of incompetence. That way everyone benefits.