Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Thoughts about leading change.

“The search for stability and security - in the law and everywhere else - is misguided. The fact is that security can only be achieved through constant change, through discarding old ideas that have outlived their usefulness and adapting others to current facts.” – Justice William O. Douglas.

Doing business today reminds me of a passage in one of Schubert’s piano sonatas marked, “As fast as possible,” which is followed a few bars later with the admonition, “Faster.” In such a dynamic world, change is normal, stability is an exception and the biggest threats come from unexpected places. Avoiding change is like holding your breath – if you’re really good at it, it’ll kill you.

As firms become successful, they usually become committed to their current ways of operating. However, as Mark Twain noted, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll just get run over if you sit there.” The firms that built the best sailing ships in the world didn’t learn to build steamships. The people who manufactured horse buggies didn’t learn to build automobiles. When companies don’t reshape their businesses in response to changing circumstances with new products, structures and services, it’s only a matter of time until some one else does it for them. And in today’s marketplace, it’s likely to happen sooner rather than later.

In this next series of blog entries, I aim to give some practical tips about leading change gleaned from over thirty years working side-by-side with business executives introducing and implementing change in a wide variety of industries.

People who failed at leading change didn’t plan to fail. Mostly, they just failed to plan properly. As a leader, you need to have a plan for what you want to happen and how you want it to happen, even if you don’t have all the details sorted out. Luck is to be found at the intersection of preparation and opportunity. Planning is all about getting prepared so you can have access to the power of your intentions.

I've found that following the Five Ps is a good way to start.

More on that tomorrow.

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