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on change

For the vast majority of human existence the key to success was to carefully copy what your parents did and pass that template onto your children.  For thousands of generations of pre-history, this strategy was immensely effective because it was the way of recording and preserving learning and wisdom.  And the reason this was so appropriate was that change was usually incremental (volcanoes and sabre-tooth tigers aside).

So most of us come hard-wired to cling to the proven and tested ways of the past.  The trouble is that we now live in a society which regularly breaks and redefines the old rules for success.  Everyone has read or heard much about the accelerating rate of change.  But that is not the issue!!  The real challenge is that change is changing, which is why it needs to be high on the list of organisational capabilities as we move further into this new century.

Much of the change of the early to mid Twentieth Century was of the better-faster-cheaper variety.  Existing industries and technologies basically found clever ways to be more efficient and convenient: valves became transistors, transistors became integrated circuits.  From the 1960ís onwards, however, change started to become discontinuous; that is, instead of better-faster-cheaper we started to experience new-and-different: fundamental changes in gender roles, massive changes in universal access to information.  What is needed in response is not change but transformation.

Many organisations miss the difference between change and transformation and often donít live to tell the tale.  Thatís because they burn time and resources in getting to be the best at something that no longer has a future.  The story is told that the last company to make buggy whips must have been higher quality and lower cost than all its previous competitors.  The problem was that Henry Ford made cars so cheaply that no-one wanted buggies any more.

Sometimes better-faster-cheaper is the way to go.  That kind of economic and competitive pressure, however, is often an early warning that your organisation may be better off if it recalibrates its instruments so that it can navigate a discontinuous future.

The truth is, ďChange ainít what it used to be!Ē  Discerning the difference between major change and complete transformation is a defining moment in an organisationís history.  At PS2 we work with our clients to do that analysis, develop a strategy and then plan for the right magnitude of change at the right time, with the right people.