A Play in Three Acts

Larry Wood, 1996 - Public Domain


Setting: A government chicken farm.



The Animal Farm Center was established by the government to serve as a model of excellence of Agriculture with a view toward improving productivity of the American farmer. The Center was established in 1930. Recently, a new administration took over in the White House (a Donkey) and instituted a new philosophy of productivity - "better - faster - cheaper."

The Animal Farm Center, under the direction of Crocodile, has several directorates. The Poultry Production Directorate is responsible for raising and selling poultry. The current leader of the Facility is Race Horse.


Scene 1

Poultry Production Facility

The CEO, Gander, is visiting the Animal Production Center and is touring the Poultry Production Facility (PPF). Crocodile is showing him around. The Mocking Bird is singing on the rafters, and everyone is very happy. It is a bright sunshiny day. Everyone is in great spirits. A jovial mood prevails.

As the scene opens, Gander and Crocodile along with Race Horse, Parrot, and Owl are entering the Poultry Production Facility High Bay.

CROCODILE: This is the Poultry Production Facility. Our chickens are produced locally to yield the highest quality taste. We ship chicken to Kentucky to make a famous brand of Chicken that is sold all over the U. S. We have a taste that is preferred by connoisseurs all over the world. Our chicken has been served in London, Paris, Tokyo, and Rome.

GANDER: What is that assembly line all about?

CROCODILE: We put the chickens on it and they are transported to the scalding water vat (SWV) where the feathers are softened for easier removal by the pluckers. We have the lowest pin feather per pound (PFPP) rating in industry. Our PFPP is .001 which is a Class 1 Cleaning Room.

GANDER: What are those gages over there?

CROCODILE: We'll get Turtle to explain those. He is our resident Chicken Production Engineer.

TURTLE: Those gages measure the temperature and pressure of the scalding water in the scalding vats. They enable us to easily monitor the quality of our process locally. If the water is too hot, pluckers suffer irritated finger syndrome. If the pressure builds too high, the vat could rupture and cause a catastrophic uncontained emergency (CUE) and could result in Category 1 loss of life, injury to personnel, or damage to mission specific processing equipment.

GANDER: I don't think such old-fashioned technology should be used in such a high-visibility project. I think it would be more appropriate to use a 200 megahertz multiprocessor UNIX workstation with multimedia displays from a remote monitoring facility.

RACE HORSE: Yes, we thought of that, but opted for this instead. This only cost $25 and added the convenience of local monitoring so the people who were most concerned would know their danger without having to be dependent upon monitoring by personnel a mile away.

GANDER: (Gander has stepped in some chicken droppings) "Uuuhhh!" "Did I just step in 'You-know-what'"?

RACE HORSE: We have a foot cleaning device over there. No problem.

RACE HORSE: (To Owl as Gander goes over to clean the chicken manure from between his toes). Owl, you find out the name of the chicken who left that and make sure its tail feathers are pulled out! And put a letter in their 201 file. And you tell Bill Goat that if that ever happens again, I'm going to replace him with Turtle!


OWL: (Owl turning to some nearby chickens). Whoo - whoo - whoo did this?

MOCKING BIRD: (Perched on a rafter and singing a beautiful song, The Mocking Bird Song.)

GANDER: Who is singing that beautiful song? That is a very talented lady. I think she is a credit to the facility, the agency, and the nation. How wonderful! She deserves a promotion. Gander turns to Turtle and asks: Please get me a newspaper, The Wallstreet Journal.

(Turtle leaves to fetch the paper)

(The scene closes with the group leaving the Poultry Processing Facility)

Scene 2

The Board Room (Center Director's Office)

All the managers are seated at the conference table. Gander is standing and giving a pitch on the new management initiative. He uses charts to explain.

GANDER: Due to budget shortfalls in the out years, we are going to have to tighten our belts. We don't have the money to continue these expensive programs. So everyone will have to chip in. Your part is a 50% cut. I'm sorry, but the people have demanded it. I want a leaner-meaner work force. I want you to do more with less. At the same time, I want you to do the following: Go high-tech. Get the gages out of the PPF. Use modern equipment. Clean up your act. That incident today in the PPF is intolerable. Oh, by the way, where is Turtle? I sent him out to get me a paper earlier.

TURTLE: Sir, we don't have The Wall Street Journal down on the Farm.

GANDER: That gets my gander! How do you maintenance mechanics, you dumb chicken pluckers, ever intend to make a contribution to this agency if you don't read? I need to know what's going on up there. What if my stock has dropped?

GANDER: (Speaking to Crocodile) Could we get Mocking Bird to sing for us?

CROCODILE: (Looks toward Parrot)


GANDER: In order to become more efficient we need to practice metrics. Learn to measure your processes and improve them. "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it!" 

Scene 3

Poultry Production Office (Group Meeting)

In the Operations Support Barn a meeting of the Poultry Production Group is taking place. Mocking Bird has been promoted to Chief. The workers are all talking about it before she arrives.

CUR DOG: I know how she got the job. The boss liked her singing.

(Mocking Bird enters her office)

MOCKING BIRD: Twiddle-de-dee! What a lovely day. I'm so glad you're all here. We have a wonderful opportunity to do something for our agency. Your Farm needs you! You are among the best producers on the Farm, but there is still room for improvement. We are going to have to improve. We have to do better with less. We are going to have to tighten our belts. We have to do it better - faster - cheaper. I've been trained in the hay barn where I was an acting assistant straw boss (lady) - "tee - hee - hee." I have looked at our metrics. The hens lay eggs. The eggs are hatched. The biddies grow to full size. The chicken pluckers clean them. Old Gray carries them to market. However, Old Gray is only making one trip to market per day. I think that we could speed that up with some changes. So, effective immediately, I am replacing Old Gray with Cur Dog, who is faster. He is the fastest animal on this farm. I think he can deliver the pullets faster.

I'm also making the following changes: Mr. Pig is being placed in charge of the cafeteria since he likes food so much. Mr. Owl will be assisting me in metrics. Since I am now the Chieftess and can no longer perform my duties of picking berries for the jam, I'm turning that over to Turtle. Now, I have just learned of a problem. The hens are being sexually harassed by Red Rooster. I will have none of that! We have fired Red Rooster. In fact we are having him for lunch today - chicken and dumplings! (All the hens cackle in applause) Owl will assume his responsibilities. He will manage the chicken yard.

Are there any questions?

CUR DOG: Yes, I can't pull a wagon. How am I going to do Old Gray's job?

MOCKING BIRD: That's a very astute observation. We will have the design engineering department provide a wagon to your specifications. No problem. Any more questions? Oops, I have to run. Crockie wants me to sing for his luncheon! Toodles! 


Scene 1

The Mocking Bird's Office

Six weeks later. A meeting has been called to review the metrics prior to the report to the director. The scene opens with Mocking Bird seated behind her desk, and the other animals seated at the conference table in front of the desk. Owl is presenting the charts.

OWL: The overall poultry productivity is down 50%, jam production is down 70%, and there are some problems with the eggs.

MOCKING BIRD: Why are we down 50%?

OWL: For one thing, we have some problems. At first, Cur Dog could not get all the pullets to market. He made 25 trips a day but that was only half as much as Old Gray used to carry per load. Then Cur Dog has been eating chickens on the way. We caught him! Then there's the problem with the eggs. They quit hatching a few weeks ago. We are having only a few biddies. Now the assembly line is almost stopped.

MOCKING BIRD: I don't believe it. I can't tell the boss that. If I do, he will have our hide. You take those numbers back and think up something positive to say. What's wrong with the eggs?

OWL: We have called for a consulting Veterinarian.

MOCKING BIRD: Why is the jam production down?

OWL: Well, Mr. Turtle had an accident. He fell off a ladder picking blueberries, landed on his head, and is in the hospital. He's out for six weeks minimum.

MOCKING BIRD: Well, assign Parrot to the berry picking.


Scene 2

The Director's Office

Mocking Bird is singing a song about the wonderful farm. Then she presents the metrics from the charts that Owl has prepared.

MOCKING BIRD: We have achieved an improved performance in deliveries to market. Cur Dog is now delivering the poultry and he has achieved 25 times the performance of his predecessor. This will enable us to have greater customer satisfaction.

CROCODILE: That is unbelievable. That is the greatest increase I've had yet. That will put us number one in improvement in inner process metrics in the entire agency. I am delighted. Who came up with this idea?

MOCKING BIRD: Well, actually it was mine. Te - he - hee!

CROCODILE: That is super. I'm going to promote you to executive assistant for your good work.

MOCKING BIRD: Why thank you, Crockie - (corrects herself) I mean, Mr. Crocodile, sir. 

Scene 3

Back in the Office (formerly Mocking Bird's)

As the scene opens the workers are waiting for their new boss to enter. Mocking Bird has been replaced with Wolf. Wolf is gruff, mean, nasty. Nobody likes him. He is a pain to all. Wolf has been thoroughly schooled in the lean-mean philosophy.

WOLF: I'm Wolf - for those who don't know me. I have been reviewing the metrics for the PPF. We are going to have to tighten up. We need to be leaner and meaner. I noticed that the mule, Old Gray is doing nothing. Old Gray would you please justify why I should keep you?

OLD GRAY: I do the plowing for the spring planting, plow other times as needed, haul in the crops at harvest, and transport the produce to market.

WOLF: I thought Cur Dog was handling the market transport ops.

OLD GRAY: He took it over six weeks ago, sir.

WOLF: I think anyone could do the harvest, the dog is handling the transport, and so I don't need you 'til next spring. We have to get through this year. Therefore, I am deleting your job function.

Cur DOG: Is this a RIF (Reduction in Force), sir?

WOLF: No, we are transitioning his slot to another directorate.

OLD GRAY: So, I will be working for someone else?

WOLF: No, not necessarily. I am simply releasing your slot - not you. You will have to find another slot.

OLD GRAY: But we are the only mass transport group on the center, sir.

WOLF: Animal Resources has outplacement counseling available if you want to go elsewhere.

Now, I have a neat idea to increase cash on hand. The hens are not producing any biddies any more. We can make more money selling hens than pullets since they are heavier. Owl sell off 50% of the hens, and claim credit for the grain saved by getting rid of Old Gray. Also, we need to be leaner, so I am replacing Cur Dog with a Greyhound who should be able to run much faster. I hope you all know that this is what we have to do to survive. Any questions?

(There is dead silence)

Scene 4

Director's Status Meeting

WOLF: According to these charts we see that our overhead has been reduced and our net revenue has increased by 300%.

CROCODILE: That's interesting. How did you do that?

WOLF: We deleted the mule from our process. We also started selling hens, which yielded more volume of produce. Since, they were getting old, we needed to outplace them anyway.

CROCODILE: That is amazing. The Gander will be happy with our productivity. This is truly leaner and meaner. You certainly deserve a promotion!


CROCODILE: I like your loyalty, Mr. Parrot. During these troubled times, we need loyalty like yours. I'm going to promote you to Chief of the Poultry Production Facility.



Scene 1

The Operations Support Barn

The workers are all gathered round the conference table in heated discussion. They are angry and demoralized. They are waiting for Parrot to arrive for the meeting.

OWL: I can't believe this place! Parrot is totally unqualified to lead this organization. We need to stand up to him and tell him that unless he meets our demands, we're quitting. We need to let him have it right to start with. We'll just tell him we refuse to work under these conditions. Even an idiot knows you can't produce biddies without a rooster, and you can't haul heavy loads without a mule. Now the Greyhound has become our first fatality. He died today in a wreck. The little red wagon he was pulling to market hit a pothole as he was going 23 mph. It jackknifed on him and broke his back.

PARROT: Hello!

OWL: Mr. Parrot, may I speak?


OWL: We have had it with this place. Everyone is crazy. You can't produce biddies without a rooster. We demand that you give us back a rooster or we won't continue. Can we get another rooster?


OWL: Thank you. Now, I guess you heard, the Greyhound is dead. We want Old Gray back. He can haul more than any dog. We are not going to continue packing a little red wagon for a dog to haul around. Now, are you going to wise up and let us have Old Gray back?


OWL: Thank you.

Scene 2

Animal Farm Center Director's Office

CROCODILE: (On the phone) Race Horse, what are you running over there, an animal farm? I just got off the phone with the head of metrics at HQ and he said we were giving contradictory signals - something about roosters and mules. Gander is coming down tomorrow for a status briefing. You get Parrot over here tomorrow morning at 9:00 sharp. Tell him he better make it good or he's headed for a carnival.

(Next day at 9:00 AM. The Gander is down. Everyone is gathered in the Crocodile's office around the conference table.)

GANDER: I want to know how the new initiative is doing down here. Do you have the current stats?

CROCODILE: Yes, Mr. Parrot and Mr. Owl are here to fill you in.

GANDER: Hello.

PARROT: Hello.

OWL: Here are the charts, which show our quarterly results. Our current productivity is up 20% from last year before the downsizing started. We have reduced hens by 40% while maintaining pullet production. We have reduced our staffing by four. We lost to attrition a Mocking Bird, Cur Dog, Greyhound, and a Wolf. However, we have managed to improve egg fertility levels with the help of a new pedigree rooster. This has boosted our real biddy per egg ratio and enabled us to produce more pullets. Net gain is 20% up from last year and 500% up from 6 weeks ago.

GANDER: So that's why you needed another rooster. What's the story behind the mule? First you had a mule, then you didn't, now you do.

OWL: We ran out the differentials versus load to dog ratio by means of differential calculus and determined that the speed to load ratio was too high for a dog to achieve the same quantitative delivery levels as a mule. So we asked for our old mule back. Since he is really half donkey, the current administration in the White House readily agreed.

GANDER: That is scathingly brilliant. I'm delighted. (Turning to Crocodile) Croc, why didn't you tell me about all this? I'm thoroughly impressed. Mr. Parrot deserves the National Merit Award for Metrics Utilization. In fact, Croc, you've been wanting to retire for a while; so, why don't we give your job to Parrot, who is a model of excellence. I'm sure with his leadership this would be a Center of Excellence. (Turning to Mr. Parrot) Mr. Parrot, would you be willing to be our new Director of the Animal Farm Center?

PARROT: Okay - Okay.


Author Larry Wood

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