Herding Cats: Project Management Is About Destination

A boy heading cattle at dusk in Mozambique.

Herding Cats (or Cat Herders) is a popular advertisement that is often used to illustrate the complexity of managing business change.

Herding Cats Is About the Destination

But I think the most important point about herding cats is often lost.

Herding cats isn’t a race.

Business change is not a competition and the prize isn’t always about getting across the finish line first.

Business change projects are rather like a cattle drive where the goal is to complete the journey in time and with the herd reaching its destination in tip-top condition. It is a commercial undertaking.

It is about achieving your goals.

What’s more, the drive is completed in stages, control is exercised to make sure everyone makes progress together, and the trail boss takes stock after each shift… But I won’t take the analogy too far. I’ll leave that to the video.

Herding Cats Is About People

For he will do as he will do, and there’s no doing anything about it. When you let him in, then he wants out; he’s always in the wrong side of the door. – T. S. Elliot, Rum Tum Tugger

Warren Bennis’s book Managing People Is Like Herding Cats helped to popularise the term herding cats. He said “Be humble. Stop trying to herd cats and start building trust and mutual respect. Your cats will respond. They will sense your purpose, keep your business purring, and even kill your rats.”

Good leaders have vision with intention which sets direction and leads to a goal.

Strong leaders must have drive and determination. But they must also conduct themselves with uncompromising integrity and honesty.

This is what herding cats is about.

What do you learn from herding cats?

Creative Commons image courtesy ILRI.

Last updated 21 June, 2015 5 CommentsShare the knowledge …


  1. […] Herding Cats is a popular advertisement that is often used to illustrate complexity of managing business change. We think it's about people and destination.  […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *