Is it true that management development doesn’t have to be boring? “Sheep-dip” training, mandatory “top-ups”, corporate refreshers, executive development programmes, regulatory compliance workshops… we’ve probably all experienced a variant of at least one of these at some point. It’s great that organisations are investing in training and developing their managers and leaders, but does it have to be so boring? While learning and development has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, the fundamental methodology remains the same. Delegates have information or skills downloaded to them and they are meant to go away and then use them to do their job more effectively. Even with effective follow-up and coaching, it’s hard for busy managers to dedicate the time needed to embed what they’ve learnt back in the workplace. Delegates can often drift back to a world of complacency where it (“it” being the need to change) is always “someone else’s problem”.


The problem with this management development methodology is that it rarely begins a dialogue about what is really important to the organisation’s success… the culture and the behaviours and attitudes of the people who work within it. We may dance around these issues in groups discussions but we never make this the sole purpose of the intervention itself. However, the power of having an organisation-wide conversation about the way people treat each other, the way we approach innovation and our readiness to change is rarely harnessed.

So, what if everyone in the organisation were simultaneously having conversations about “the way we do things around here” and feeling motivated to do something about changing it? To do this effectively, you need to be able to compare your organisation’s culture with that of another organisation. However, holding up the mirror to organisational culture is hard. When we work within a corporate environment, this is all we know. Bringing the outside world in is challenging and taking managers out to see how others “do it” is not practical.

The Bee Book

This is why Paul Rigby and I wrote The Bee Book. We’ve worked with organisations for many years as facilitators and trainers and been showing them that management development doesn’t have to be boring. We wanted to combine the power of the great insights and conversations you get at a well facilitated “off-site / away day” with a repeatable methodology that can be used across the whole organisation. Paul and I have used allegories and metaphors to do this in our work for years. We have found that allegories allow people to learn more effectively by losing themselves in the story and being able to relate to characters and situations. It also helps them to think about application of lessons to real-world scenarios. We find allegories quicken the learning process and make it fun and interesting at the same time. Furthermore, it makes the whole experience memorable.

We’ve both used John Kotter’s excellent “Our Iceberg is Melting” in this way to get groups to start talking and working their ability to lead change. However, we wanted something that more specifically addressed organisational culture, leadership and employee engagement. We couldn’t find anything out there that could do this so we wrote The Bee Book ourselves. The approach to using The Bee Book is simple, get a significant number of leaders and managers in your organisation to read it, then facilitate a series of workshops to get them to reflect on the lessons. More importantly, they also agree further ways to spread the conversation across the organisation and mobilise the willingness and energy to change.

The Bee Book is a quick and easy-to-read story about change, innovation, leadership and employee engagement. It covers the typical issues that occur every day in our working lives.

The story is about a hive of bees who are faced with a catastrophic change in their environment. They need to take quick action if they are to survive. But is the hive ready and capable of adapting to the challenges presented or are they stuck in a world of complacency? The main characters – Buzz, Stripes, Hover, Greybee, Queen Luna, Queen Sola, Mr. Wingit, Zippy and a few others – represent typical employees in any organisation, people you may know. Perhaps you can even identify yourself in the story.

The challenges they face vary from general leadership issues, decision-making, complacency, innovation, change, employee engagement and just making simple common sense decisions that any organisation needs to make on a daily basis. We encounter procrastinators, positive outliers, fence-sitters and a hierarchical decision-making process. All play an important part in whether or not the hive will survive.

The Bee Book may be enjoyed by anyone. It does not contain a prescriptive set of lessons that one can copy from a page at the back of the book. It has been written for you to interpret and translate with your colleagues and workmates if you believe its lessons will benefit your organisation. The lessons will become evident as you progress through the book. Each person will have his or her own perspective on how best to handle the challenges and will identify different potential solutions. After all, in today’s complex world, there is no one right or wrong way to accomplish the end result and not every challenge is obvious to everyone. We are all individuals striving to do the best we can.

Management development doesn’t have to be boring

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Bee Book for free, please click here.

You can buy The Bee Book in paperback and Kindle format from Amazon

Also, you will find other information about the book at