5 Powerful Management Lessons From The Animal Kingdom


One of the most fundamental yet powerful principle of management is to ensure survival.  If an organization’s survival itself is at stake, nothing else matters.  Interestingly, management techniques are not the prerogative of human beings alone.  If fact, the animal kingdom is replete with examples of management styles and techniques that enable animals to survive over thousands of years, completely on their own with no help from anyone.

Here are some management lessons from the animal kingdom.

1.  Delivering Performance On Demand: Agility





When it comes to agility, the leopard is a highly agile animal.  It has the power of modifying its performance to suit its requirement. It incorporates, stealth, speed and agility into its pursuits.  It can track its prey on the ground and also climb trees to hunt.  It is capable of moving silently though the forest and at the same time mobilizing a burst of speed.

In today’s rapidly changing business world you need to be very agile to cope with changes and align your goals and pursuits.  People and organizations that are unable to adapt to the changing environment perish in the business world.

Jack Welch once said: “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”

From an agility standpoint, TCS is a highly agile company in the Information Technology Industry.  Over the last few years it has made dramatic changes to its structure, processes and incorporated strategies that have made it one of the most valuable companies not only in India but also among IT Services companies worldwide.


2.  Coping With Change Consistently: Resilience





Oxford dictionary defines resilience as- ‘The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.’

If you look at the animal kingdom there is one creature that has lived for thousands of years without changing itself much.  What it is today, is very much what it was thousands of years ago. Very little has changed of the crocodile. It can live on land and in water with the same ease. It is very powerful when it is in water and on land practically the entire exposed part of its body is covered with amor, making it a difficult target for predators.

Many successful companies have the hallmark of resilience that allows it to survive over years and grow from strength to strength.  Some companies are good at managing changing technology while others are good at managing changing business models.  Only a few companies are good at managing both. Apple is a company that is good at managing both. 


3.  Leveraging Core Competency- Speed




When it comes to speed one name comes to the mind immediately, the Cheetah. Unmatched for speed and rapid acceleration, the Cheetah is not considered the fastest animal on the planet, for nothing! When it comes to hunting, it focuses entirely on its core competency- speed. When organizations leverage their core competency, powerful things start to happen. 

Take FedEx for instance, it focuses on just one thing- on time deliveries, all the time. As a result it has established a niche for itself in its industry.

In several industries, you need speed to develop new products, implement new improved processes and respond to market needs.  If you are slow in this, then your survival could be at stake. Today we talk of accelerated product development.

The world of Smart Phones for instance, is changing by the minute.  With competition intensifying and product prices dropping sharply, companies are forced to speed up new product development and compress research.


4.  Going Into Pure Survival Mode When Required: Conserving Scarce Resources





In the world of nature, when winter gets too harsh and it becomes difficult to find food, some animals go into hibernation to conserve energy and wait for winter to pass. Bears that live in cold areas will go into a light hibernation for about six months of winter during which time they do not eat.

During recessionary and troubled times, organizations that are able to conserve their resources and cut out flab, tend to survive better that organizations that carry on with a Business-As-Usual approach.

Take the case of Nissan Motors that in 1999 was facing bankruptcy.  At that time, Carlos Ghosn was sent to Tokyo, with orders from France’s Renault SA to rescue its floundering Japanese business partner, Nissan Motor.  He slashed costs, closed unprofitable factories, shrank the supplier network, sold unprofitable assets, and rewired Nissan’s insular culture. Within a year, Japan’s second-largest auto manufacturer had returned to profitability.


5.  Adaptability





When it comes to sheer adaptability, one animal comes instantly to the mind- the dog.  One of the most common pets worldwide, this animal has adapted itself to living with human beings as perhaps no other animal has.  Somewhere in its evolution it made this call. In the process, it has made its own life easy and ensured its survival.

People who have the capability to adapt to their surroundings and environment quickly, tend to be far more productive in and valuable to organizations, than others who don’t.  It is the same with organisations as well.

When Salesforce.com launched its concept of managing sales force and customers through the internet there was very little knowledge to rely on.  Nevertheless, it went ahead and the rest is history.  Today this is an accepted way of doing business!

Animals adapt to changing environment naturally without conscious effort. Human beings on the other hand are different.


About the Author: Srinivasan is an independent consultant working in the area of strategy and technology interventions in the public sector domain. He has worked in companies like IBM and TCS and has over 30 years of experience spanning 24 countries.

Srinivasan R

Management Consultant at Independent Consultant