Why is the dog barking

THE KING of Siam likes to cruise down the Chao Phraya River in his luxury dragon boat. Accompanying the king would be his prime minister, ministers and other hangers-on, and of course a team of rowers.

During one such cruise on a hot afternoon, the bare-backed, sinewy rowers sweated as they paddled the heavy, over-crowded boat. One of them grumbled to the other about the ministers not doing any physical work but merely fanning themselves and chatting with the king.

The king happened to overhear the grumbling. As the boat passed a bend in the river, there came the sound of barking on the bank in the distance. The king stopped the boat and asked the grumbling rower to go ashore to investigate the racket. The man came back to say he saw some dogs barking.

“How many” asked the king. The man didn’t notice and had to go back to find out.

“One mother dog and some puppies.”

“Why was the mother dog barking?”

The man didn’t know, so he went back to find out more.

“The mother dog was barking because some of her puppies were wandering too far.”

“How many puppies?” The man didn’t notice, so again he went back to find out.

Repeatedly the boatman had to go back to investigate, each time returning with only a single, short answer. Then the king sent the prime minister ashore to find out. The minister came back and gave a full report of the situation, including a detailed description of the mother dog, and that the puppies were running around because they saw a python nearby. The information was complete, and the minister was able to anticipate and answer all the king’s questions.

The king told the boatman: “If you don’t want to spend your life rowing boats which is really no fun, then learn to be as smart as the minister in using your head. Know how to investigate and assess any situation fully, and present your findings efficiently and coherently. This way, you don’t have to go back and forth and waste everybody’s time.”

Studying in school and university should have prepared most of us not only to be work-ready, but to be work-savvy, i.e., smart enough to appreciate problems and issues, to research and gather data and, most important, to present the information (and solution) in a coherent, meaningful way to our co-workers and superiors.

May all who have acquired an education, be able to read, write, and find out why the dog is barking.