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Opinion
Megan McArdle

Wolves Close In on Target's Executives

“Throw someone to the wolves behind the sled” is a favorite model for handling corporate disasters.
Target's executives know the feeling. Photographer: Tim Boyle/Bloomberg
Target's executives know the feeling. Photographer: Tim Boyle/Bloomberg

I once heard a Russian fairy tale about a family that is riding through the woods in a troika -- a three-horse sled. Alas, they are set upon by wolves, and the husband urges his horses to their maximum speed. As the wolves gain on them, he grabs his servant and tosses him to the wolves behind them in the hopes of simultaneously lightening the sled and slowing the wolves. Which works . . . for a while. But eventually the wolves are upon them again, and so he pulls his wife to him, tenderly kisses her and tosses her, too, off the sled. The wolves stop to eat, then reappear behind the troika, close and getting closer. At which point the driver realizes it is just him and his young son, the heir to his lands . . .

This is a very good metaphor for companies in crisis.