Wizard of Oz, Camel’s Nose and Being a Change Agent:


In my last post, I talked about learning from Dr. Seuss’ quotes. In his “Greens Eggs and Ham” book, one of the characters(Sam) tries to persuade the other character to eat green eggs and ham. “Try it, try it, you may like it”, Sam says.

Aldean Jakeman commented on this post and stated that the “Green Eggs and Ham” book was her first change management book. This got me thinking about the “Wizard of Oz” story, and the story of the camel’s nose.

Learning from the Wizard of Oz:

There are four main characters in “Wizard of Oz”, written by Frank Baum. These four characters represent a quality characteristic that every change agent needs:

  • Dorothy – the main protagonist of the story. She was swept into the wonderful fantasy land of Oz by a cyclone. All she wants is to go back home to Kansas.
  • Scarecrow – the first friend Dorothy makes on her journey home.
  • Tin Woodman – a character who originally was a real human, but now is completely made of tin. Tin Woodman is the second friend that Dorothy makes.
  • Cowardly Lion – the third and final member of Dorothy’s team.

True North (Home):

“True North” is a strong concept in Toyota Production System (TPS). True North depicts our ideal state. True North is what we are striving towards. We are trying to reach True North. In a TPS/Lean way, Dorothy represents the characteristic of True North, our ideal state. All she wants is to go home (True North). A change agent should form his/her team, like Dorothy did, to reach their goal (true north).


The scarecrow represents the quality of “the heart”. A change agent should have his/her heart in the game. This allows you to think from the other person’s viewpoint. Having the heart characteristic makes you realize that this is a win-win, non-zero sum game. The heart represents empathy and compassion, without which you cannot gain the buy-in from your team. You should be open for suggestions and ideas for improvements. Toyota has identified “Respect for Humanity” as one of the two pillars of Toyota Way.


Tin Woodman represents “the brain” characteristic. A change agent should never stop learning. You should be smart enough to try things out and learn from your mistakes. You should also be smart enough to realize that you need to train and develop more change agents. A change agent should know how to approach when he/she is trying to implement a change. Here, Brain represents both knowledge and wisdom. A wise change agent will request his/her team to try things out at first. The “for trial only” approach eases them into the actual implementation.


Cowardly Lion represents “courage”. A change agent should be brave enough to look back at himself/herself with a critical eye and challenge assumptions. A change agent should be open about the problems, and transparent in communication. At Toyota, they talk about the importance of “Hansei”. “Hansei”, a Japanese term, loosely translated means “self reflection”. This can act as a strong and effective feedback loop that will steer you back on course towards True North. Having courage also means that you are capable of saying “No”. Ultimately, a change agent should be brave enough to stand up for what he/she thinks is right. Winston Churchill, the former UK prime minister, said the following about courage:

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

Final Words:

I will finish off with an Arabian story that goes by the name “The Camel’s Nose”. The story has created the phrase “camel’s nose” in English language that is a metaphor for allowing a larger change in the pretense of small incremental changes. This phrase has a negative connotation since the change represents something that is not desirable. Here, I will be presenting it as a tactic for a change agent to encourage their team to implement the change. This story is about a wise camel, and the importance of implementing a change little by little at a time.

It was an unusually cold night in the desert. The camel was outside, tied to the tent. The master was inside the tent, comfortable and getting ready to sleep.

“Master,” the camel said putting his nose under the flap, “it is so cold outside. Can I at least put my nose inside the tent?”

“Sure,” the kind master replied, and rolled over.

A little later, the master rolled over and found that the camel had his whole head inside the tent.

“Master, it feels so nice here. Can I please put my front legs inside the tent too?”, the camel asked.

“Okay, you may”, the master said moving a little toward the edge since the tent was small.

The master again rolled over trying to sleep. A little while later, the camel again said “Master, Master, can I come inside the tent all the way? I will stand inside. It is very cold outside.”

“Yes,” the master said unwittingly. The master went back to sleep.

The next time the master woke up, he found himself outside the tent and cold.

I am not suggesting here that the change agents should be the camel kicking out the master. I am presenting the story to show the importance of taking things a small step at a time.

Always keep on learning…

In case you missed it, my last post was Learning from Dr. Seuss.

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