The Parable of the Tail with No Teeth
Page 1
Part I: The Parable of the Tail with No Teeth
Patrick D. Fero
Editor’s Note – Beginning with the Spring
1988 issue and concluding with the Fall/Winter
2006 issue, Cryptologic Quarterly ran a series of
articles by Mr. Patrick Fero on management. The
articles used a mythical and whimsical medieval
setting to present morals about general and partic-
ular aspects of management. (Some readers think
the articles just may describe situations which have
arisen at NSA.) The articles proved to be very popu-
lar, and many CQ readers asked if we had plans
to reprint them. This volume is a response to that
question, and we hope that the lessons contained
in the original printing of Mr. Fero’s articles will be
as relevant to present and future managers as they
were the first time the articles appeared.
nce upon a time there was a castle. The
castle hadn’t always been a castle. Once
it had been only a stable, but operated by some
very young and very smart people. In fact, many
of them were geniuses–eccentric but good at what
they did. What they did was very specialized and
complicated. A keen intelligence, rigorous training,
and lots of experience were necessary to do the jobs
well. The people who did these jobs were called
Everyone worked hard in the stable producing
horses for the military forces in the kingdom and
manure for the neighboring farmers. Business was
good, and the demand rose for more horses and
more manure, so more people had to be hired to
become technicians.
The new people–who came to be called “vas-
sals”–didn’t share the common background and
experience of the original technicians–who came to
be called “lords”–and required training to do things
in the time-honored ways of the stable. Soon it
became clear that the running of the stable couldn’t
just continue to happen in a purely democratic way.
It needed a hierarchy.
Since the hierarchy needs managers and super-
visors, and since these worthies are supposed to
know the most about the hierarchy in which they
operate, all the new managers and supervisors, the
lords, were chosen from the technicians who had
been in the stable the longest.
The lords were also the best technicians. They
were the best technicians because they possessed
a unique nature: they were the most comfortable
dealing with the horses. More accurately, they sim-
ply loved working with the horses, to the exclusion
of almost everything else. Unfortunately, they were
almost as equally uncomfortable dealing with peo-
ple. Working with horses was not the same as work-
ing with people, or worse, being lords over people.
People who loved working with horses didn’t often
like working with people. Being a lord meant one
should know how to work with people and make
people work. But there was no one to teach the old
technicians how to be lords. All of their peers were
in the same boat–they preferred and understood
horses but not people.
They also preferred being around people who
liked horses and were good at working with horses.
So they surrounded themselves with people just
like themselves. They promoted people just like
themselves and replaced themselves with people
just like themselves.

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