Snow White and the 10 Dwarfs

May 25, 2011 by Bill Bradley


Title: The Real and Almost True Behind the Scene Story of Snow (Sunny) White

Competencies: performance management, coaching, talent management, leadership skills, visionary leadership

Who benefits: anyone who could use a smile today

Consultant Usage: all coaches, especially those involved with 360 Degree Feedback

What’s it about? Once upon a time in a faraway time and a different place, a man who was called Walt Disney created a very popular animated film.  Some say it is a classic.  Even today most people still think of the film as the story of a wicked stepmother, a young beautiful woman and seven short guys. 

My own almost real investigative research strongly suggests that this film was a thinly disguised meta-three (at that time in his career he could not afford a metaphor) for his early negative feelings toward Hollywood and Big Business. So without further ado, here is the almost real story behind the film:

In the film the wicked stepmother stood repeatedly in front of the mirror and asked “who is the fairest in the land”.  In Walt’s World she was a stand-in for a well-known Ego Driven Executive from a conglomerate.  It was well known that said executive often straighten his tie in front of a mirror while asking “Mirror, mirror on the wall, whose company is too big to fall?”

There was in corporate headquarters an up and coming employee named Sunny White (in the movie her name was changed to Snow so no one would know who she was in real life).  Her career path preference was that of a specialist.  Her primary duties consisted of saying “yes” and telling all the executives and senior managers what a fine job they were doing.  They all thought she had extraordinary talent and was destined to go places. 

And go places, she did.  The Ego Driven Executive recognized talent when he saw it and he was having some serious concerns about the productivity coming from the conglomerate’s Western Regional Office in Mine, Nevada (hence, the mine in the film).  She was made a Regional Vice President (quite something for the time), given 65% of the salary of all the other RVPs, and sent off to Mine to clean up the mess.

Sunny, being of cheerful disposition and wishing to stay gainfully employed, journeyed off to the great Western Regional Office.  Upon arriving she was of mixed feeling at what she saw … and heard.  The good news was morale was high.   The employees were all running around singing songs like “Hi ho, hi ho it’s off to work we go” and “Whistle while you work”. 

The bad news was productivity was low.  This was partly due to too much singing.  We don’t have great records of what happened after Sunny’s arrival.  What remains are very spotty personnel jackets (that’s what they called them in the old days).  These records give some clues as to the ending of the story.  So here for your examination are summaries of the records from the 10 dwarfs employed in the office.  (There were the seven from the movie, plus Lazy, Hazy and Sleazy.  There was rumored to be an eleventh dwarf, Mort, but that was never proven.)  

Doc was the team leader and good at fixing things.  Since no other employee was performing at acceptable levels, Sunny had Doc fixing all their problems.  Trouble was that Doc never had time for his own work … and was rewarded with middling performance reviews.

Grumpy was frequently warned about complaining incessantly and starting false rumors.  In the film he is seen mostly with one eye shut.  He is credited with the expression “Keep an eye open for trouble.”

Happy received several letters-to-file commending him on his positive influence on the group and being a team player.  No mention in the files of any work accomplishments.

Sleepy was constantly tardy, overextending the lunch period and had a high rate of absenteeism.  His personnel file contained eight final warnings.

Bashful had almost nothing in his personnel file.  No one seemed to know what he did or even where he was.

Sneezy’s health problems became so severe he filed for worker’s compensation and wasn’t seen after the first week of Sunny’s tenure.

Dopey became Sunny’s special mentoring project.  She sent him to every open enrollment corporate training program and a few outside courses as well.   Like Sneezy, he wasn’t seen after the first week.

Lazy only had one performance review in his surviving file.  In it he was cited as the lowest performer in the group and severely reprimanded for his extreme apathy.   His written response was “I don’t care.”

Hazy was cited as the most productive of all the employees.  He produced volumes of reports.  No one seemed to know what they were about, how they contributed or what to do as a result of them.  But the volume was exceedingly high.

Sleazy was the Western Regional Accountant and in charge of the Petty Cash Fund, which wasn’t so petty.  In a later audit, auditors were in fact shocked by the amount of business that was transacted by cash. 

We now come to the film ending, when the noble prince arrives to kiss Snow White and whisk her away.  Never happened.  It’s just a fairy tale.

What did happen is that a fellow named Andy Prince showed up one day to let her know that his conglomerate had just completed a hostile takeover of her conglomerate and that she and the Dwarfs could “kiss off”.  The new conglomerate wasn’t interested in the employees, just the conglomerate’s assets (meager as they were by this time). 

The film ends shortly after the kiss.  Real life isn’t like that.  In my almost real investigative research I found a mixed bag of what happened to the characters after the happily-ever-after ending. 

Mr. Ego Driven Executive was given the Golden Goose (those were the days before the Golden Parachute).  He passed the goose on to his son who became a very successful hedge fund manager for Golden Socks … until 2008 when he killed the goose.

No one knows for sure what happened to Sunny White.  She was reportedly very depressed by the whole experience.  One rumor was she went through some big changes and showed up again some years later as Sonny Bono … but who’s to say?

The original seven dwarfs made out pretty well, considering the sudden layoffs and that none of them had resumes.  They all ended up playing munchkins in the Wizard of Oz.  After that film they pooled their resources and headed off to Bora Bora where presumably they start each day with “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to the beach I go”.

Lazy became a Hollywood agent working primarily with out-of-work actors and food servers.

Hazy received a high paying job with the Securities and Exchange Commission writing federal regulatory guidelines.

Sleazy had disappeared right after the hostile takeover.  Auditors found a note in the petty cash fund that read “Hi ho, hi ho it’s off to parts unknown I go.”  He reemerged years later as big player in the subprime lending movement in Southern California.

As for Uncle Walt, the film was a life changing experience.  He went from being anti-establishment to being The Establishment.  His company went from being some kind of mickey mouse outfit to being The Mickey Mouse Conglomerate.  “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to the bank I go.”

All stories of this kind need some kind of moral, so let’s try this one: If your company thinks it can’t fail, your leaders can’t see beyond their own successes, your executives have not laid out a clear vision that everyone can understand and buy into and your management isn’t recruiting, developing and retaining the right kind of talent … it is time to polish your resume.

Catch you later

[tags]envisia, envisia learning, snow white, seven dwarfs, walt disney, performance management, coaching, talent management, leadership skills, visionary leadership, bill bradley, william bradley, bradley[/tags]

Bill Bradley (mostly) retired after 35 years in organizational consulting, training and management development. During those years he worked internally with seven organizations and trained and consulted externally with more than 90 large and small businesses, government agencies, hospitals and schools.

Posted in 360 Degree Feedback, Engagement

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  1. extremely clever Bill and your point is well made! Love this…thanks.

  2. Jan says:

    Sunny actually chose to look on the “sunny” side and she filed a gender discrimination lawsuit because of the inequitable pay. Ultimately, Sunny won a quite generous settlement. She built castles in park settings around the world and leased them to her friends Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.

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