Critical Book Review: How Stella Saved the Farm by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble

Authors for years have used parables to illustrate key points specific to human behaviors and nature. Aesop's fable are probably the best known.

In business, authors such as Kevin McCarthy in his work The One Purpose Person to John Miller in QBQ to BJ Gallagher Hateley and Warren H. Schmidt in their book A Peacock in the Land of Penguins have also used parables or fables to address business issues from people to change management to innovation and creativity.

Now Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble have joined others in crafting a parable around innovation through what they call "a wild and wooly yarn about making innovation happen."

The story, How Stella Saved the Farm is about two farms one managed by animals and the other by human beings. Both farms (think organizations) are working through change and innovation where the status quo is no longer good enough. Unfortunately Stella's farm is not doing as good as the other farm.

This is kind of like Planet of the Apes working along side Plant of the Humans. Only the creatures being farm animals are a little less threatening and possibly even more comical. The authors also have provided some simple brown and white illustrations which help to reinforce the parable. After all, we see and hear words, but we think in pictures.

Within the story line, the reader is exposed to a variety of issues that happen in business from a leadership void, to doing the same thing the same way to accepting diversity. By having the main characters as animals makes those issues somewhat less bullying, but still very realistic. I am sure we can all relate to one person in an organization who acts like a bull with "It's my way or the highway!" Attitude.

Where the incredible value really is, is at the end of the book where there are two sets of questions.

  1. Questions for Review
  2. Questions for Deeper Reelection

There are questions specific to each chapter with the implication to apply these questions to what is happening or might be happening within the organization.

For example, in the first set of questions, topics include:

  • Leadership
  • Organizational history
  • Finances
  • Attitudes
  • New product introduction
  • Organizational charts
  • Flexibility
  • Making tough hiring and promoting decisions
  • Cultural diversity

For the second set of questions, they are the "What If" scenarios. Also, these questions bore down into the feelings of those involved with this movement to save the farm (think business).

For me the first few chapters were a slow read and caused me to put the book down even though it overall was a quick read of fewer than 130 pages. However, after the first couple of chapters, the story line did pick up and I completed it rather fast.

If your organization is facing change or needs an infusion of creativity, then this is a good book to work through some of those changes by identifying them first.