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Time to Change

Janet E. Lapp, Ph.D.

"In my opinion, there are two kinds of businesses in the United States:
those that are heading for the cliff and know it,
and those that are heading the same way but don't know it."
—Jack Welch The Time to Change

Perhaps your revenue growth is flat, perhaps new competitors have shown up with a new technology. Both these represent the 'second curve' or the second wave of business reflecting the 'new paradigm.' This new wave is fueled by new technologies, new markets and new consumers–things cannot revert to the way they were. The time to change is before the Second Curve that is, before the point where change becomes mandatory because revenue is sliding.

If your company is too big or too successful to fail, you may need to change the most radically. For example, the IBM of 1985 was on top of their market, but in 1987 lost 25% of market share to Compaq, who are now leading in worldwide sales. IBM's main failing? Isolationism, or the refusal to believe that others could do it better. Although they are now beginning to rally, they lost millions because they would not give up what initially made them great.

Janet Lapp
Janet E. Lapp, Ph.D.
   The Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railways made attempts to switch to the vision of 'transportation' instead of 'railroad.' They diversified, looked to new revenue streams, but they never made the emotional switch; they loved trains too much, and wouldn't give up what made them great. Are you working for a transportation company that is a K-Mart of 1980, a Sears of 1960, an IBM of 1970, or an Apple Computer of 1985?

The greatest mistake is to do more of what one has always done because it's always worked. Never rest. Success is a signal to put in even more effort.

Is your industry mature? What are you doing to seed the next generation of business?

"We were the ones who made the rules, and we had rules about everything. Our culture had no instinct for competition. People believed that if you got a job here, it was a lifetime opportunity. We had an entitlement philosophy, believing that we were a monopoly because it was right to be a monopoly."
—A Senior VP in the Bell system

Another reason for learning where you are in your life cycle is to avoid the build-up of organizational 'plaque,' or company residue. Only when old systems, thoughts, rules, and beliefs are discarded, can businesses stay ahead of their organizations. If they don't, the organization can overtake the business and bureaucracy grows.

"They can have any color Model T they want as long as it's black."
—Henry Ford

While it may not at first be apparent or believable, business problems are less a matter of fixing external factors than doing what is needed internally. One of the reasons why management is unable to change is the inability to let go of old practices

"Businesses fail not because they don't know what to do.
They fail because they don't know what to give up."
—Peter Drucker

The struggle to hold on is just as powerful for nations and for businesses, as it is for people. It is a human tendency to want to hang on to what has worked in the past, but it is a skill of today to learn to let go. Inability to let go may be the single most compelling reason for failure, both personally and professionally.
 

On a cash register in Des Moines, Iowa:
"Don't look back, we ain't going there."

I wish that I could report that these tendencies were diminishing in large corporations. My experience is that they are not. But, that keeps me in business.


Dr. Janet Lapp’s non-stop energy, enthusiasm, and kick-butt messages drive her audiences to create change, get-on-board-or-get-off-the-bus, take risks, and move forward.
Like to know more about Janet?
 

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