Ten Things I Learned from The Walking Dead

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The Walking Dead is one of the most successful TV shows in America. The story follows Rick Grimes and his group of friends and family in a Zombie apocalypse. I got hooked onto it last year and binge watched all the available seasons on Netflix with my wife. I have come to realize that The Walking Dead can teach you one or two things about Management. Here is my list of 10 things I learned from The Walking Dead. I am hopeful that you can also learn to survive the “problems apocalypse” in your work or life.

  • Observe and let the patterns emerge:

The whole world is falling apart. Nobody knows what to do. Everybody is turning into zombies. It is chaos everywhere. Have you felt that sometimes at work everything is falling apart? There is one problem after the other. What is going on?

You have to let the patterns emerge to start making sense of things. At first Rick and his group thought that you have to be bitten for a person to become a zombie. It was later learned that any person once he dies becomes a zombie. Similarly, they learned that a zombie can be “killed” by destroying its brain. The group has learned to observe and let the patterns emerge! Once the patterns emerge, you can start creating basic rules to survive.

  • This too shall pass:

Rick and his group have learned the important lesson – this too shall pass. If you see a horde of zombies coming your way or if you are surrounded by zombies, panicking will not help. Understand that the problem seems insurmountable at the time, but the problem too shall pass. Each problem is an opportunity that you can learn from.

  • Learn to adapt/ keep learning new things to survive:

Rick’s group contains people from different walks of life. Glenn, a major character was a pizza delivery boy prior to the zombie apocalypse. Glenn learned the superior zombie survival skills to emerge as a leader in his group. Rick’s group had to learn to adapt to live in the new world. They had to always keep learning new things to survive, such as fighting, using guns, hunting etc. Similarly, to overcome stagnation apocalypse at your work or in life, you have to keep learning new things.

As Dr. Deming may or may not have said:

“It is not necessary to adapt/change. Survival is not mandatory.”

  • Teamwork:

The only way Rick’s group is able to keep on surviving is because of only one thing – teamwork. Each person in his group is important. They have appointed Rick as their leader, and they work together to survive. Rick’s group goes out from their haven to the outside world in order to scavenge food and necessities to survive. They risk their lives to do this, and they are able to do it only because of teamwork. Nobody tries to sub-optimize. They know that it is not about one person, and that it is about the group. Anybody trying to look out only for themselves gets killed. It is about system optimization!

  • Rotate/follow-up:

Even if you are good at what you do, you need to rotate your job. You need experts but your team thrives from cross-training. Especially on an assembly line, rotation of the job is important to stay alert. If you are not on the assembly line, request review of what you do. You will learn more that way. Give and take feedback! Remember this, when you are on a watch for zombies, always rotate for survival.

  • Ground Yourself:

Life can be stressful. Your work can be stressful. It is easy to lose hope. You need to learn to manage stress. Find joy in the little things of life. You have to learn methods to ground yourself back to your place of confidence and serenity. The lesson of grounding yourself is very important in martial arts disciplines such as Aikido. Rick’s group has enemies in both zombies and remaining predatory human survivors. Rick’s group knows that losing your cool can get yourself killed.

  • There is almost always a way:

No matter how unsolvable a problem is, there is always a way. Sometimes, there is more than one way. Rick’s group has been in several situations where they felt like there is no way out. But always they found a way out.

Something that I have always wondered while watching the show is– why not climb a tree to escape from the zombies? Zombies do not climb trees.

  • Make sure everybody knows the plan:

One thing that Rick is really good at is that he lets his group know what the plan is. This is important in order to survive. Rick has laid down the rules, and everybody is happy to adhere to the rules. In the show, whenever the leader does not share his plans (e.g. the governor, a negative character in the show) it always ends up bad for his group. When everybody is working towards the common goal, you reach your goal faster, better and cheaper. You need to let your team know the what, the why, the who, the when and the how. Keep your communication lines open and your plans transparent.

  • Develop your people:

Rick is wise to know that you need to develop your people. Almost all the members in his group started off as scared and unsure. For example Carol, a strong character and care taker in his group, was initially portrayed as meek and defenseless. Carol has become a resourceful and strong leader in her own right. She provides counsel to Rick with difficult decisions and protects the group from outside dangers.

Rick helped develop his group members to be strong and able to handle themselves in an emergency. Rick has developed his group with a strong purpose – survival of the entire group. Rick is able to let others lead when required. Rick knows that he cannot survive without his group.

  • Don’t rest on your laurels:

This is most likely the largest of Rick’s pet peeves. He hates the idea of being complacent. His group has been through a lot, but he does not want them to drop their guard. One misstep can lead to a big loss. He is keen on growing themselves and being ready for what comes next. Today’s success does not guarantee tomorrow’s success.

Always keep on learning, and remember to run for the tree when the zombies come…

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