The Parable of the 3 Stone Cutters

A man was walking down a street when he saw 3 stone cutters.  Curious, he asked the first one, “What are you doing?”


“I’m doing this to get a paycheck,” was his response.


Coming upon the second, he asked the same question.


“I am creating the most beautiful stones.  Look at how perfectly they are polished, the corners are perfectly rounded, and each one is perfectly shaped.  My goal is to be the best stone cutter in the world.”


Impressed, the man asked the third stone cutter.


His response was, “I am building a cathedral.  My goal is to create a place where the community will come together to worship.”


We have all seen the first man, he’s there to make a few bucks, and may be the easiest to motivate because he is so obvious with what drives him.  He won’t waste time on something that he won’t get paid for and can be highly productive.  However, he can be a mercenary and have little loyalty or connection to your purpose.


We seek the second man.  He is the practitioner of the business that is a subject matter expert.  He has mastered the craft and continue to excel at the necessary functions.  We sometimes call him/her accountants, engineers, programmers, or maybe marketers. Every business needs them, but they often struggle with seeing the big picture because they are so focused on the product, or the process.  He can be an excellent supervisor because he can create such excellence in his area or function, but he struggles as a manager or leader because their perfection trumps their purpose.


Finally, there is the third man, the visionary.  He is the architect.  He understands not only to what purpose the stone is serving, he understands what purpose the cathedral will serve.  After all, “form follows function”, and the function of the cathedral must be known.  However, he can be so caught in the vision and over-thinking that he doesn’t produce like the first man or create the quality of the second man.


Putting together a team depends on what you are trying to accomplish.


Some teams flourish with the first stone cutter, but others need and require a group of the second.  At some level, every successful team needs the third, the architect who can give some vision to the purpose.  Sometimes, it’s the alchemy of all three that create the best results.


I first heard this when I was studying with Peter Drucker.  He used this metaphor in several of his books.


  1. Coretta Bitsuie on June 3, 2019 at 9:57 pm

    Can I just say what a reduction to seek out somebody who actually knows what theyre talking about on the internet. You undoubtedly know how to convey a problem to light and make it important. Extra folks have to read this and perceive this facet of the story. I cant consider youre not more widespread because you definitely have the gift.