Gung Ho! by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles


Do you want to improve the productivity and the profits of your organization? The key is to instill energy and enthusiasm into every person in the workplace. Blanchard and Bowles have provided a simple formula in this book.

The book, which is written in the form of a story, is interesting to read. It tells the story of a woman manager who is set up for failure by being sent from head office to take over operations in a regional factory with dismal performance. In startling contrast to the rest of the company, she finds that the finishing department is impeccable. She befriends the Native American man who runs this department, and he agrees to teach her his grandfather’s philosophy, by which he runs the finishing department. He teaches her, she introduces the changes into the rest of the factory, productivity improves, the plant is saved, and with it the jobs of everyone who works there. This philosophy is Gung Ho, and it consists of three principles which are modeled after observations of nature.

1. The Spirit of the Squirrel

The first principle was revealed by watching squirrels running, again and again, to a feeder, stuffing their cheeks with sunflower seeds, and taking them back to the forest. Why are the squirrels working so hard? Because they are motivated. What motivates them? If they don’t store up food for the winter they will die. The squirrels are working hard because their work is worthwhile.

The Spirit of the Squirrel: Worthwhile Work

The Spirit of the Squirrel can be instilled in people, by focusing on how their job fits into the big picture, how it is important and adds value, and not simply on units produced. Everyone must be committed to the same clearly understood goal, like the squirrels are committed to gathering seeds to survive the winter. Understanding that their work is worthwhile gives employees self-esteem, which is one of the most powerful human emotions.

2. The Way of the Beaver

The second principle was demonstrated by watching beavers repairing their dam, which had been damaged by a flood. Each beaver swam back and forth with branches, and anchored them to the dam. There is no boss beaver telling the other beavers what size of branch to bring or where to put it. Each beaver decides for itself how it will contribute to getting the dam repaired. If they want to work at one end, fine. If they want to bring small branches, great. They exercise their own best judgement.

The Way of the Beaver: In Control of Achieving the Goal

The Way of the Beaver is applied to people by giving them control over how the goal is achieved. The role of the leader is to establish the framework through setting the key goals and values. You define the playing field, and the rules of the game, you decide who plays what position, then you have to get off the field and let the players move the ball. The players have to know that as long as they follow the rules they can go anywhere within the lines. They have to know that as long as the ball is in play, you will keep off the field. Production expectations should be within reach, but challenging, demanding peoples best. It is demeaning to expect far less than people are capable of producing, they want to do fair work for fair pay.

3. The Gift of the Goose

The final principle was observed in a flock of geese, flying south for the winter. As the geese flew by in their V formation they were honking away at each other. When they landed on the pond they honked up a storm. When they took off – honking again. What were they honking about? They were cheering each other on – those were happy enthusiastic, cheering honks.

The Gift of the Goose: Cheering Others On

The Gift of the Goose is given to people by complimenting and celebrating on an ongoing basis, not just the big wins, but the small ones too. You can’t overdo congratulations, if they are true congratulations. An annual message to the whole department congratulating them on a good year, by way of a memo on the bulletin board, won’t have the impact of an announcement on the paging system that Leslie Anderson in Shipping has just set a record for cartons shipped without damage three months in a row. And it’s not just the head goose that cheers. All of the geese are involved – cheering each other on to achieve their mutual goal. Cheering each other on brings enthusiasm to the work.

Implement these three simple principles, in order, in your organization, for performance and productivity improvements which will guarantee you greater profits. The book provides a clear, step by step outline for instituting these ideas, which will ensure Gung Ho employees who are committed to success.

© 1998 – 2014, Joan Donogh. All rights reserved.

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