Wizard of Oz:  the Scarecrow on fire

Toward the end of the movie, “The Wizard of Oz,” the Wicked Witch sets Scarecrow on fire, yippee!  That is brutal, why would I be glad of this? Well, if the witch had not set Scarecrow on fire, Dorothy wouldn’t have thrown the bucket of water (It was nice that there happened to be a bucket of water next to Dorothy.) on Scarecrow. Dorothy, with such vigor, heaves the bucket of water toward Scarecrow, not only putting out the fire but inadvertently splashing on the witch.  To their surprise, the witch melts!

Sometimes, if we stop to focus on putting out the fire, it can have drastic effects on the “bigger picture” problem.

In an organization, the leader notices that employee productivity is low.  Upon further investigation, the leader finds out that employee morale is low and that the culture stinks.  The culture and climate issues were less obvious from a high view since there were no “numbers” attached to them.  Productivity could be seen or measured through sales, returns, attendance, and employee turnover.  The leader works on building positive relationships with employees, and implements team building activities and employee perks.  As a result, he or she looks at the quarterly report and sees that productivity is up.  The water not only put the fire out (climate and culture), but it also melted the witch (increased productivity).

In a classroom, a teacher is struggling with a lack of student learning and achievement in his or her classroom.  The teacher is also struggling with managing student behavior.  The teacher implements strategies that improve the culture and climate of the classroom.  He or she builds relationships with the students and makes learning relevant, rigorous, and fun.  The teacher notices that student engagement  and motivation increase.  Over the next few weeks, students are performing at higher levels and growing academically.  The teacher was able to put out Scarecrow’s fire (improve classroom environment) and melt the witch (increase student learning).

The Wizard of Oz movie has inspired me to now create a new metaphor.  I am going to call it the “Defeat-the-witch-by-throwing-water-on-the-blazing-scarecrow” metaphor.  Okay, I’ll work on a shorter name, but you get the point.  Defeating the Wicked Witch represents the overarching bigger picture problem: low returns and numbers and meager results.  Inadvertently melting the witch by throwing water on a fiery Scarecrow represents those elements which are “in your face” but not obviously connected to the bigger picture problem (It’s obvious we needed to save Scarecrow, but not obvious that the water would make the witch melt!).  Values, beliefs, attitudes, and culture represent this part of the metaphor.  Sometimes we can be so focused on defeating the Witch, we ignore the fiery scarecrow right next to us.  Look around and pick up the bucket of water right next to you. You may be surprised at what happens next…

Image Credit: familyhalloweenmovies.blogspot.com

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