Golgafrincham “B” Ark – What to do when you don’t have one handy


If you have read the late Douglas Adam’s book “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” the next analogy will make more sense. If not, please allow me to explain.

On a planet called Golgafrincham, some citizens decided it was time to rid themselves of an entire useless third of their population. So they concocted a story that their planet would shortly be destroyed in a great catastrophe and planned an evacuation in three ships Golgafrincham “A”, “B” and “C” arks.

  • The passengers of the “A” ark were to be all the brilliant leaders, scientists, great musicians, data analysts, engineers and architects.
  • The passengers of the “B” ark were to be all the “middle men” , marketing executives, telephone sanitizers , sales assistants and telemarketers etc.
  • The passengers of the “C” ark were to be the real workers, construction, manufacturing and other craftsman.

The “B” ark was sent off first with instructions to go colonize a new planet, report back and then to wait for the other two. However, the “B” ark was programmed to crash-land on a suitably remote planet and of course the other Arks never followed.  When a traveller comes across the remote planet bound “B” Ark crew, they inquire as to what the “B” Ark people are doing there.  The response “we’re to colonize a new planet!”. The traveller states “What … with that lot?”

The Golgafrincham “B” Ark.

I was in a project where we literally hired hundreds of resources. When the resumes came in they were immediately sorted into 3 piles “A”, “B”, “C”

A – Leaders, Engineers, Architects, Ultra High Performance

B – Middleware

C – Workers

“A” and “C” went on for further consideration and “B” went into the shredder. When you are hiring for a project you have the luxury of picking “A” and “C” members but in the real world …every project, every client and every company has “A”,”B” and “C” players in various roles.

In my 25 year+ career, most of my employers have provided insight and feedback which is both helpful and constructive. There is one piece of feedback that has been persistent over the years and also apparently something that I have not yet mastered. The feedback?

“You don’t suffer fools well Ian …”

Yes I will admit it. I have a problem with “B” Ark people. I’ll find them on a project and immediately try to convince them to go colonize a new planet. It rarely works. Generally they are doggedly persistent, eager to attend meetings, take minutes and offer insightful questions like “when’s lunch?”

So being woefully inept at solving this problem, I have decided to emulate what any good “B” ark person would do and that is offer advice on a topic which is quite beyond me.

So here are two things not to do to a “B” Ark person. (from painful personal experience)

  • do not ignore them, they will not just go away as much as you wish it so and
  • do not engage them in topics or problems that you know are beyond their ken. It really won’t end well.

So what do we do with the “B” Ark people?

I have consulted colleagues better informed than I on this topic and the following was one of the more creative suggestions.

  • Hire another “B” Ark person to have meetings with them. Demand that accurate minutes are kept and that they should meet at least twice day until the problem is resolved.
  • Define a circular problem similar to the following:

“we are concerned about internet attacks on our systems. Only an untrustworthy person would hack a system. The fact that hackers are untrustworthy is proof of this. Please determine how we can identify untrustworthy people to prevent them from hacking our systems.“

That should keep them busy for a while.

In addition to the working group on this problem, be sure to establish at least 2 or 3 oversight and governance groups to monitor and check on progress. For good measure be sure to invite Gartner for additional advice.


I am not so sure that this approach will work though. I suspect that if someone actually asks you what the working group and committee are for and you explain, don’t be surprised if they say “What… with that lot?”

Perhaps I’ll have to hire a behavior coach to teach me how to suffer them better…



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3 Responses to Golgafrincham “B” Ark – What to do when you don’t have one handy

  1. Pingback: Infinite Shades of Grey – A year later and a little greyer | Infinite Shades of Grey

  2. Slatibartfast says:

    If you’re in a group and you can’t identify the B Arc person, chances are it’s you.

  3. Um…I forget…what happened to all the A and C types on Golgafrincham after they got rid of the so-called useless B types of their population: the management consultants, marketing executives, hairdressers and telephone sanitizers?

    Oh, that’s right. … they were all suddenly wiped out by a virulent disease contracted from a dirty telephone.”

    Douglas Adams was, I think, making a larger point — seemingly mediocre people can seem maddeningly useless but they really aren’t…useless and — appearances to the contrary — they’re probably not really mediocre either.

    Some people are definitely slower on the uptake than others but this has nothing to do with intelligence or potential ability. Some people have broadband imput and others are stuck with dial-up.

    Arthur Dent for instance, the lead character of The Hitchhiker’s Guide, is clearly a B type who, contrary to all expectations, repeatedly turns out to be the most central figure in the known universe.

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