The Fine Art of Herding Cats

I once had an opportunity to join a team of mostly well-intended folks, working on – presumably with the eventual goal of solving – a routine but time-consuming real estate problem. It was not complicated, but it was arcane in the sense that it involved two large companies, having large-company rules, and a County Building department, fully populated with individuals ready to play out their ever-present power and ego issues, at the expense of unsuspecting homeowners. The other members of the team were;

(a) an attorney, who in stereotypical fashion, never saw a promissory note, easement, covenant, contract, or agreement of any kind that didn’t need to be redone, of course requiring billable hours;
(b) a civil engineer[i]… who I had declined to hire on another project, some years earlier., who had a unique ability to see every hint of difficulty as a problem requiring a complicated solution[ii]… a lift pump control question, which ancient Romans had solved 2000 years ago.;
(c) a licensed real estate agent who had been appointed by the homeowner as both the listing agent and project coordinator, an obvious conflict of interest;
(d) a homeowner who had not even the slightest clue about what the others were doing, or should be doing.

An additional complication was that my friend, once a neighbor and all-around good guy, happened to be the ex-husband of the homeowner. He was coming to her aid at a time when she needed it most, finding himself in the position of “Chief Cat Herder” and I would have become his partner or assistant.

Reluctantly, after much agonizing, I chose to participate for a time, but I quickly dropped out of the herd. I had just spent a half-century working for large companies where “helpful” individuals turn minor issues into big problems overnight. I also had far more experience than I ever wanted at the whims of government bureaucrats, having proven to myself to not be a good herder of cats. For me, backing out was a matter of self-preservation – fearing that I would lose my composure and do something that would put me in prison for the rest of my years.

The Final Product

As the project grew closer to its end, the wisdom of my choice became more and more clear. The “contractor” hired to do the job consisted of a “boss-cat” and 3 or 4 “worker-cats”, who taken as a whole, could not come up with one full set of teeth, but they managed to create this masterpiece of workmanship reminiscent of back-home in Arkansas.


By: Jim
Written: October 25, 2023
Published: October 26, 2023
Revised: November 4, 2023 – Added civil engineer footnote
Revised: June 19, 2024 – Added Final Product
i … who I had declined to hire on another project, some years earlier.
ii … a lift pump control question, which ancient Romans had solved 2000 years ago.