The Drunk Moose Decision Rule

We all have many demands on our time and for our attention. Some are worthy… others, not so much. How we approach these demands says a lot about our managerial style. It is more difficult – though not impossible – for stressed, overworked folks to be efficient and effective. Managers who can address what is critical and shelf – or, better yet, delegate – what is not, free up time and energy to be more purposeful. They prioritize. It’s a hallmark of the Minimalist Manager, whether you are managing a staff of 50, a classroom of 20, junior high basketball team of 10, or a household of 3.

Or drunken moose and vindictive owls in Anchorage, if you are Rick Sinnott, former wildlife biologist for Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game. In a recent broadcast of This American Life entitled “When the Beasts Come Marching In,” NPR’s correspondent caught up with Sinnott and talked to him about how he manages some of the wild animals whose presence is pestering.

Anchorage’s citizenry prides itself on its tolerance of its four-legged and winged animal neighbors… a “Hey, can’t we all just get along?” type of attitude prevails. Except when the animals no longer play by the rules…as though they got the rulebook. Owls are stately when perched high above on a remote tree limb. They quickly become a menace when they dive bomb skiers, vicious talons striking with vengeance. Turns out, pet owners don’t like it when their furry friends turn into a wolf’s first course. And then there are the moose, which often roam into town during the winter months to forage for food and get Christmas lights tangled in their antlers or eat fallen, fermented crabapples and get tipsy. What a scene!

Sinnott received countless complaints about wildlife forgetting their place (a.k.a. in a real life landscape portrait) and interfering in humans’ daily routines. While he took the calls that came in, he didn’t have to respond to them all. Common sense, another hallmark of the Minimalist Manager, ruled the day. If a human or an animal was in danger, he intervened. Otherwise, he’d be spending his days responding to calls like the one he received about a moose blocking a person’s path to his car. Sinnott’s advice? Call your boss and tell him you’re going to be a little late today.

This is not to say that those you manage are little more than dim animals (Did you know the moose’s brain is only the size of an orange?) but to underscore effective managerial practices. Prioritize, set decision rules. Respond to what is necessary, not what everybody necessarily wants. Determine what your “drunk moose” situations are and tend to those.

A great read on decision making. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Other good reads: Purposeful Consumption (Books, Movies, etc)


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