The incredible transformation of HR, the ugly duckling


Once upon a time, in the Business Kingdom, lived an ugly duckling called HR.

This is the story of her incredible transformation
into a beautiful swan.
Because, sometimes, dreams do come true.


HR came to life with an important task: to select the most beautiful birds of the world and to make the Business Kingdom the fairest of them all.

To accomplish this objective, the King – the most beautiful swan in the lake – conceded HR a team of hard-working ducks, who could help her select the best birds more quickly and efficiently.

For no apparent reason, however, HR was born with different looks from her peers. She started suffering much verbal and physical abuse from all the other birds of the Kingdom.

The King, seeing how unpopular she was, did not want to let her have all that power and decided to limit her space of action.

HR was therefore relegated to administer the Kingdom policy, dictated by the King and by the most powerful members of the Royal Court: the Swans. They were called MarketingSalesFinance and Operations and were considered more suitable to develop the Business Kingdom’s power.

Soon, HR and her team became a repository of ugly-looking and weak birds who had, honestly, very little to offer. Confined in their little world made of repetitive tasks, they were not learning anything new and took very bad decisions about the type of birds needed to achieve the Kingdom’s glorious objectives. To make matters worse, HR often received orders from her more powerful colleagues to select birds, she would have never picked. They were in fact not qualified for the high standards she had set and their confrontational personalities did not fit with the Kingdom’s former collaborative nature.

HR had lost all knowledge of the world and all the control on the development of the kingdom’s beauty. She was forced to work with a very unskilled workforce and she became, as a result, very frustrated and sad. At her lowest, she even thought of leaving the Kingdom! She however wisely waited, hoping that, sooner or later, all the chickens would come home to roost!

And that specific moment arrived soon enough.
The Kingdom was suddenly hit by a terrible disease,
which everyone called “Disruption”.

At first, the King did not pay a lot of attention to it; until he sadly saw his realm getting poorer and poorer.

The Kingdom’s pond started to be populated by a lot of foreign birds and various other animals who, despite not “looking the part”, were so ingenious, so creative and so clever! They had special, never-seen-before talents. They discovered some special food full of extra-vitamins and nutrients in, around and beyond the pond: food which none had ever seen before. All the new visitors became stronger and stronger, more and more majestic and took possession of all the territory.

The Business Kingdom was no more the idyllic place it once was. It became incredibly crowded and noisy.

The King of business had no idea how to save himself and his realm from the inevitable end.

Their future was doomed.

HR couldn’t just look at her own Kingdom collapse without doing anything and, one day, she asked to see the King. She talked to him about the need to think differently, because the world as they knew it, had definitely changed for good. She specifically suggested to go and find birds and other wingless animals with different looks and from different breeds. It was from diversity – she explained – that the “disruption disease” arrived: their kingdom would have overcome the crisis through it and not against it!

The King had, at that point, nothing to lose and decided to give HR a chance. She was finally at the center of all decisions and acted immediately.

She closely observed the invaders, made a list of all the missing skills and behaviours in the Business Kingdom and quickly realised that she needed help from someone who:

could understand her Vision

had experience of survival

was a good judge of character and

knew how to adapt to such a dramatic change.


She wanted what she called a CPO – a Chief Prosperity Officer.

She met hundreds of candidates and, finally, she found what she was looking for!
It was not a bird, but a very smart frog, who was thrown as a tadpole into the pond by the Kingdom’s young prince, only because he looked like a meaningless and creepy little thing.

He had survived thanks to the help of all the other toads of the pond, who had then taught him how to protect himself from the predators throughout the four seasons.

He so acquired the precious ability to adapt to change, to prevent attacks from the enemies and to leverage his own strengths. His naturally positive, curious, imaginative and kind nature supported his growth into adulthood and he eventually became so respected, that he was soon leading the frogs population, which grew and prospered like never before. He also devised a very ingenious way to face a very dangerous enemy, called “Climate Change” and he made sure to train all the frogs population, so to be prepared to any future scenario.

The newly appointed CPO knew, from experience, that the only way to save the Business Kingdom was selecting animals with the same skills as those, which saved his life, and to train the existing population to overcome their fear of change.

And so did he.

He first rebuilt the HR’s team, who then went through a rigorous selection of all the key animals destined to rule over the kingdom.

CPO knew that things could change in very unusual and unpredictable ways. The talents, needed today to face Disruption, could become obsolete very soon. He therefore decided to build a

Talent Development Academy.

Every creature of the kingdom happily attended it and kept learning new skills. They acquired a change-friendly mindset, by reflecting from the history of their past. They envisaged together new possible futures and gave space to their creative minds. That was a lot of fun!

The newly formed Business Kingdom quickly embraced change, envisaged innovative ways to get their territory back and protected it from future attacks.

The pond grew back to be a gorgeous place: beauty was defined not only by the plumage quality of its birds, but by how good a learner every animal was, by specific talent and by like-minded natures.

The King had no choice but admitting that HR’s intervention saved his realm. He appointed HR as Viceroy, giving her the very important strategic role of acting as change agent. Her mission was to consistently identify where the best animal-capital value was and to create the right organisation systems which could facilitate its development.

She was still a duck, yet everyone looked up to her.
She finally felt like a beautiful swan.


Needless to say, that they all lived happily ever after.


Human resources professionals should be change agents
inside every organisation.

Disruption offers more opportunities than threats to the bold,
who dare
to build a new vision, instill a new mindset and invest in talent.

And it all starts from people management.


Explore what we do in change management here.

Explore Albachiara’s take on corporate learning here.