64 – Ambition, culture and performance. A tale of middle management in local government.

Posted by Whistler                                                                                          750 words


I was recently involved in a discussion where the metaphor of the three stonemasons came up. The person telling the story described the response of the three stonemasons to the question ‘what are you doing?’ You may know it.

The first stonemason said ‘I am making a stone’. The second said ‘I am making a wall’. The third said ‘I am making a cathedral’.

The purpose in telling the story was to illustrate the various motivations of people at work in local government and that, hopefully, we are all here to make a cathedral and we know it. Well, I started thinking about how many of the workers cleaning the same public toilets every day, or mowing the same parks, or emptying the same bins, think they are making a cathedral. The chances are that they are just diligently making a stone. Whether it is used to make a cathedral or not is probably not important to them and never will be.

Then my thinking moved on to thinking about myself and the other middle managers I deal with. Surely we are all making cathedrals? Continue reading