Fish! A Remarkable Way To Boost Morale And Improve Results

By Stephen C. Lundin Ph.D., Harry Paul, and John Christensen

Fish! is a parable about a fictional manager who is charged with the responsibility of turning a chronically unenthusiastic and unhelpful department into an effective team. This department is so “bad” that it is referred to by others as a toxic energy dump.

In truth, Fish! is about the Pike Place Fish Market located in Seattle (USA) and how its’ employees interact with their customers in delivering their business. It is purported as a true story and holds relevance for any department where work tends to be repetitive (operations, customer service, telecalling etc.) and hence often boring.

Pike Place Fish Market used to be like all the other fish markets around them—as one worker says, “same routine job of selling fish day in and day out. How exciting can that be?” Then they discovered an amazing thing: there is always a choice about the way you do your work, even if there may not be a choice about the work itself. You could choose the attitude you bring to your work. Pike Place is now a place where employee wanted to come to work, and numerous documentaries have been made in the fun and engaging way it carries out its daily chores:

1. CHOOSING YOUR ATTITUDE:
• You can bring a moody attitude and have a depressing day;
• You can bring a grouchy attitude and irritate your co-workers and customers;
• You can bring a sunny, playful, cheerful attitude and have a great day

2. PLAY:
• You can have an adult playground and be productive
• The benefits of play are many: happy people treat others well; fun leads to creativity; time passes quickly; having a good time is healthy; work becomes a reward and not just a way to rewards
For example, each fish was known by a nick name, and fishes were passed to each other like a game (literally thrown to the other person who had to catch it).

3. MAKE THEIR DAY:
• Don’t stand apart from your customers but rather find ways to include them in your fun
• Find ways to create great memories
• Focusing your attention on ways to make another person’s day provides a constant flow of positive feelings

4. BE PRESENT:
• Interact with your customers and coworkers
• Multi-tasking doesn’t allow you to be fully present
• Being present is looking right at the person; its just like being with your best friend…everything is going on around you but you’re still taking care of just them

In the story, the fictional manager extols his team to learn from Pike’s experience and they succeed.

[While I enjoyed the story, I also visited the actual Pike Place Market, and unfortunately the experience there was much less transformational than what the book says. But don’t let facts spoil a good story :)]

Why should you read the book: Any stakeholder of a team doing repetitive tasks has a lot to learn. I used to run a shared service centre for P&G in Philippines and the teachings here helped a lot. Read the book for its fun prose, large fonts and easy reading (shouldn’t take more than an hour).