Not all Change is Progress...

The world is changing...and changing fast.

For our businesses to stay relevant we need to develop and solve new problems and meet evolving market needs. If we stop progressing in our growth and development we are at real risk of being overtaken and becoming obsolete...but beware...

Progress is change but not all change is progress!

Yes we need to be continually changing, that's the nature of progress but change for change's sake can often be a big mistake. The short video above details this idea from two very different perspectives: sport and science. Manchester United Football Club...

Under the stewardship of Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United became one of the most successful football clubs in history. Managerial changes over the last six years have led to the club being a state of decline (...and they spent over 33 million pounds on sacking three managers during that time).

Under the managers that followed Ferguson's retirement, a series of changes were made which dismantled much of what had made the team successful. In literally the last few weeks a new caretaker manager - former player under Ferguson, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer - has been appointed and, as of this writing, his record reads 12 matches played, one draw and one loss. Not bad considering how poor things were before - and the loss was to one of the very top teams in Europe. It's not a complete turnaround yet, but it's a huge start. So how has he managed it?

Don't forget what made you great!

It seems as though he's returned to some of the core principles that lead to one of the most successful periods in any football club's history. This has been applied to the administrative staff, the football academy, the coaching and advisory staff...even the city of Manchester!

How many times have we heard the need to "get back to basics"? This is normally stated when we've gone off course and forgotten the lessons learned previously.

The Apollo Space Program...

On the 25th of May 1961, John F. Kennedy declared the goal of putting a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth before the end of the decade. NASA - the National Aeronautics and Space Administration - had already been formed and they were now in a race with the Soviet Union to demonstrate superiority in space.

The quest for the moon took three major phases:

  • Mercury - learning the essential principles of rocketry and orbits.

  • Gemini - long duration space flights, docking two space capsules and space walking

  • Apollo - landing on the moon

Mercury and Gemini were regarded as successes and chalked up a series of "firsts" when it came to proving concepts vital to go for the moon.

However...when it came to the first Apollo craft - Apollo 1, three men were killed by a fire in the cockpit (also called the command module).

There were several contributing factors to this but one of they key ones seems to have been that the knowledge that had supported the progress so far had been put aside. Some new contractors were involved with new methods. Indeed, astronaut secretary, Lola Morrow referred to it as project appalling. "You don't put your history aside, you learn from it," she said.

So what do we do?

When you're winning, make small changes and measure their effect carefully: make small bets!

Marshall Goldsmith wrote a very popular book entitled "What Got You Here Wont Get You There" and I believe that's true. Relying on what you've done previously doesn't guarantee future success. We need to make changes or we'll be overtaken by competitors. But all change is NOT progress.

After Howard Schultz stood down from his role as CEO at Starbucks, they went into a period of decline during which they saw substantial losses in revenues. When taking back the reins he took 10,000 team members to New Orleans to help in the re-building effort after hurricane Catrina and reminded them that the company has never been about coffee and tea, it's always been about the people and their growth and development. He then made 125 small bets in the first 15 months. Some were flops but because they were only small changes at a small number of cafes, they didn't lose lots of money when they failed. A few were tremendously successful and these ended up replacing the previously lost revenue.

Change is necessary but change for its own sake is not the answer. Resist the urge to make your stamp on the company at all costs, especially when it means abandoning the core principles that have lead to success today.


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