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.
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.
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.