Mister Groundhog

The following is an excerpt from George Finney’s No More Magic Wands: Transformative Change for Everyone. The book follows the story of Harmony Evergreen, the President of a company that makes magic wands. Evergreen Wands has been the victim of a data breach and just like the rest of us, Harmony can’t use magic to fix her cybersecurity issues.

The digital clock displayed a flashing 4:45 and was blaring a children’s choir version of “Here Comes Santa Claus” when Mr. Groundhog thumped his wrinkled hand against it and sat up. He walked down the hallway to a room that he called his office, which was really just a small space with a treadmill in front of four wall-mounted TVs. He began jogging while watching the morning news—on four different channels.

Every day, he ran at his top speed for exactly twenty-eight minutes, giving him twelve minutes to shower and shave before making the thirty-minute ride to work. After his run, Mr. Groundhog fumbled with the white buttons on his dark navy pinstripe suit. He had just sewn the bottom button back into place the night before, and it was held tighter to the fabric than it had been in years. This made Mr. Groundhog stand up a little straighter as he left the house and ducked into the sleigh that was waiting for him. He bought a newspaper on the way to work, which cost him an extra five minutes. He arrived at the office exactly at 6 a.m. He wasn’t surprised to see that his whole team was already there.

He was, however, surprised to see the person sitting at his desk. It was Harmony Evergreen. He paused briefly to check his red tie in the mirror; it was neatly in place. It wasn’t every day that the daughter of the CEO paid a branch manager a visit.

“Mr. Groundhog, pleased to see you again,” Harmony said with a quizzical smile.

“How can I help, Ms. Evergreen?” Mr. Groundhog asked.

“We have a problem,” Harmony said.

Mr. Groundhog raised an eyebrow. He did not like problems. In fact, he had made it his life’s work to not just eliminate problems but turn them into gold as well—quite literally.

Harmony explained that Mr. Groundhog would need to change the processes for his entire department because there was some kind of spy or information leak. Harmony referenced some vague story about trouble on the horizon and said the company could even go out of business one day.

Mr. Groundhog couldn’t believe what he was hearing. His was perhaps the most profitable department in the entire tree. He had inherited dysfunctional branch after dysfunctional branch, whipping each one into shape and working his way up the tree. He had made it to where he was today by instituting the same business practices everywhere. Efficient, practical, scalable. Not only could he not accept that there was a mole in his department, he also couldn’t believe the daughter of the CEO could be so paranoid about it.

He called in his secretary and asked her to cancel all his meetings for the day.

He spent the next ten hours with Harmony, discussing her concerns. Though his office door was closed, the workers outside could hear them arguing.

By the time Mr. Groundhog and Harmony finished, night had fallen, the secretary had gone home, and the office lights had long since been turned out. Mr. Groundhog looked out his window and let out a sigh. He scribbled something on a piece of paper and handed it to Harmony. The note read, “I quit.”

The digital clock displayed a flashing 4:45 and began playing “Here Comes Santa Claus.” Mr. Groundhog switched the alarm off and got out of bed. He ran, showered, and went to the office, stopping to get a newspaper on the way. The office was already buzzing with activity. This didn’t surprise him. What did surprise him was seeing a person sitting at his desk. It was Harmony Evergreen. He paused briefly to check his red tie in the mirror; it was neatly in place and didn’t need adjusting.

“Mr. Groundhog, pleased to see you again,” Harmony said, a quizzical smile on her face.

“How can I help, Ms. Evergreen?” Mr. Groundhog asked.

“I’ve got a problem,” Harmony began. “We’re asking department heads from all around the company to review their practices. Change the business.” Harmony leaned back into Mr. Groundhog’s leather chair, which stretched and squeaked with the added pressure.

“You want us to change the business? I know this is your family’s company, so I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but it’s my company, too,” Mr. Groundhog said as he stood up and looked out his window.

“I’m glad you feel that way, Mr. Groundhog,” Harmony said confidently.

“We make the best magic wands,” Mr. Groundhog said firmly. “The only magic wands. And we don’t take advantage of our position. Our prices are reasonable, in part because we’re efficient. Changing our processes will lead to inefficiencies creeping in. It will lead to increased prices. My team knows how good they are and are proud of the work they do. Changing will mean losing the culture that we’ve built. We could lose our position in the market, all because of a theoretical problem that might come up years from now.”

“I understand. And this is why I need your help. I don’t want to dictate how you should protect the company. I just wanted to make you aware of the problem so that you can put your understanding of the business to work.”

“I appreciate your thinking of me, Harmony, but it sounds like you’re just dumping a problem into my lap. I’ve got several meetings today, and I just don’t have time right now to tinker with our processes. Why don’t you come back with some more specifics so that maybe we can find a way to measure whether our changes will have any effect on the outcome?”

Harmony sighed.

“Mr. Groundhog, pleased to see you again,” Harmony said, a quizzical smile on her face.

“How can I help, Ms. Evergreen?” Mr. Groundhog asked.

“I’m hoping I can help you,” Harmony said, standing up give Mr. Groundhog a firm handshake. She placed her hand on his shoulder and led the way as they strolled about the office together. The workers’ buzzing made the office sound like a beehive; it was loud, but Harmony and Mr. Groundhog kept talking. “You’ve got a track record of success, and I want to make sure we stay on track,” Harmony said confidently. “We’re looking ahead, and there are some signs of problems to come that we need to be prepared for.”

Harmony explained the issues they were facing, giving several specific instances of customer lists being stolen from other companies and counterfeit wands starting to pop up in various marketplaces. “We need your expertise to help make sure this doesn’t happen to us, but we also can’t make drastic changes that will put us out of business.”

“Are you thinking of expanding the business to crystal balls?” Mr. Groundhog asked. “That sounds like an awfully specific version of the future.”

“It’s actually more like a Magic-8 Ball,” Harmony joked, “and it says the future is uncertain.” Mr. Groundhog smiled at that. “What we really are looking for is to start a conversation. We will continue to bring you the intel we’re getting from the field. We’ll need to come up with some metrics on how to measure whether information is leaking out.” Harmony watched as a giant caterpillar placed a twig into a large spider web in the center of the room. Seeing the twig, the spider jumped from her perch and began to spin it in her legs, trimming off all of its rough edges. When she was done, she slid the twig to the next workstation, where it passed in front of a children’s wind-up robot with a very real hatchet in its hands.

“I have to admit that I’ve been thinking of making some changes to experiment with several processes,” Mr. Groundhog said, walking down a row of desks where several elves were copying spells from one piece of paper to another. The finished spells were then carried by other elves to the end of the assembly line, where they were wrapped around the newly trimmed wand shafts to imbue the wands with longer-lasting magic. “I think we can start to incorporate some better protections into those processes so that we can measure the results before going full scale with our new methods.”

“That makes sense,” Harmony said. “Over time, we can begin to work on phasing in changes to stay ahead of criminals, but let’s also take a prioritized approach.” As she turned to walk back to Mr. Groundhog’s office, a small elf stopped in front of Mr. Groundhog and deftly held out a clipboard with paperwork for him to sign.

“I think we’ll probably need an extra resource here to help collect metrics and report on the results,” Mr. Groundhog observed after a long pause.

“I can get that approved for you,” Harmony said.

“And, to make sure we are still meeting our service levels, I’ll need to be able to communicate with the other departments with whom we share information,” Mr. Groundhog continued. “We’ll need regular meetings and increased transparency on all of our numbers.”

“Yes, that’s a good idea,” Harmony said, nodding. She noticed a smirk spreading across Mr. Groundhog’s lips. “What?” she asked.

“I see what you’re doing,” Mr. Groundhog said, pointing his finger at her.

“What do you mean?” Harmony asked, frowning with the thought of replaying this whole day again. She reached into her purse and gently held the end of the magic wand, ready to use it again if she had to.

“You are buttering me up to get my help. Ho-ho-ho. By gum, it’s working. I have to say, Harmony, we’ve never really gotten to know each other before, but I feel like I’ve known you for a long time.”

It was Harmony’s turn to chuckle. “I’m so happy to hear you say that, Groundhog.”

“It’s funny,” Mr. Groundhog chuckled, his belly heaving. “You remind me of my younger brother.”

“What makes you say that, Mr. Groundhog?” Harmony asked, letting the wand in her pocket slip out of her hand.

“He would always need me to do things for him. Just little things like having me reach for something on a tall shelf or carry something for him. Just to torture him, I would make him do something in exchange, even if he really needed me or even if it was just something I ought to have been doing anyway. Whether or not it was the right thing to do is immaterial. I wanted him to be ready for being older, so even if I would just make him go talk to someone as a part of his errand, I made sure he didn’t rely on me to do everything for him.”

“How does that remind you of me?” she said, smiling.

“Just the way he knew the right thing to say at the right time. Or the way he asked for my help. I could have just said no. But I didn’t want to. Even if I had to do my job as a big brother, I still wanted to help him. That’s my brother.”

“Where is this brother? How come I’ve never met him, Groundhog?” Harmony asked. She had already started to think of Mr. Groundhog as a friend, but now he felt more like family. She wondered which of them had started to feel that way first. Maybe it was this spark of kinship that had finally convinced Mr. Groundhog to help her.

“Oh, ho-ho!” Mr. Groundhog launched into another belly laugh. “He’s got his own business up north making toys. But I’m not supposed to talk about it; it’s a secret thing.”

“A secret groundhog toy workshop? I’ve got to hear more about this one day.” Harmony smiled as they turned down the hallway back to Mr. Groundhog’s office. They walked casually. Harmony had unconsciously taken the same slow pace as Mr. Groundhog, who waddled while he walked, his bulk shifting from side to side.

“You probably already have and just didn’t know it.” Mr. Groundhog winked and walked back into his office, leaving Harmony in the hallway. Harmony reached into her purse and took hold of the magic wand. She looked at the elves bustling around the office. And suddenly, she was back in the clearing.

She looked up, confused; the statue was still there. Dawn had broken, and she could see pillars of orange and yellow light peeking out from behind the trees surrounding her. She laid her coat on the wet, spongy grass and sat on it as the sun began to rise. There was a small patch of dirt in front of her. She traced a long line in the soil and drew several hash marks that intersected with the line in several spots. She wrote dates on top of each hash mark: the dates that specific incidents had happened over the last year. She studied the bare earth as though it were a riddle, drawing more parallel lines and connecting them between the hash marks like a miniature athletic field.

Harmony looked up to see that the sun was already behind her, peeking over her shoulder to see what she had drawn on the ground. With her free hand, Harmony rubbed out the lines that she had drawn. She stood up, her back popping as she arched it from side to side. She turned in a circle to make sure no one was watching and, when a small wood sprite disappeared into a doorway leading into the tree, she waved her wand and was gone.


The Origami Man

The following is an excerpt from George Finney’s No More Magic Wands: Transformative Change for Everyone. The book follows the story of Harmony Evergreen, the

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Mister Groundhog

The following is an excerpt from George Finney’s No More Magic Wands: Transformative Change for Everyone. The book follows the story of Harmony Evergreen, the

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