One of the things I have most enjoyed in my career is the focus I’ve had on changing cultures and business processes for the better. It is something that I actually find immensely interesting and the challenge that I most relish. I’ve also been able to do this outside of work as well, be it working as a governor with the local school or just helping some of the organisations in hobbies that I like.
Principally the focus is always about improving. This could be making something more efficient, reducing stress, recognising that something needs to be done differently in order to better achieve what it needs to or removing single points of failure. The angle I always try to come from is looking at what is happening, looking at what the outcomes are, what they should be and if there is a way that can be better achieved. And a lot of the time this is about looking at what other places and people are doing, those places that excel, and seeing what it is that they are doing differently to succeed. Identifying these things and then putting them in place in your own environment can achieve great things. One of the key things about improving is that you learn from those that do it better, and from those that do it worse – i.e. you try to eliminate problems that other people are having. But whilst learning from others is key, copying them can be fatal.
Over the years I’ve seen people try and fail to improve because they are simply copying what other successful places are doing, without really understanding why they are doing it. And because they haven’t actually understood what is trying to be achieved and only put the process in place, rather robotically, they don’t have the ability to assess and innovate properly. This has lead me to coin the phrase “Lemmings vs Lions” and it is quite a good way of describing how you will succeed or fail in the world of business change.
Lemmings are well known as relatively pointless small rodent creatures that throw themselves off of cliffs in the arctic tundra, or as small green haired blue creatures in the eighties / nineties computer game – I prefer the latter. Either way they tend to follow the crowd. They copy each other and the end result is usually being splatted on the floor. They don’t innovate they just do what they have always done and this results, ultimately, in not improving their chances much. Lions however are quite a different thing altogether. They grow prides that will share their experiences, teach their young to hunt and then let the young off into the wilderness to form their own prides. These prides of lions need to adapt constantly to their changes environment and they have to make decisions about what they will do to survive. Each pride is similar but at the same time different in the way they do things. It is the reason they are an apex predator.
So in business transformation are you going to be a lemming or a lion? If you are a lemming then you will copy a process without really looking at what it is for, and you may initially get success but over time it will either plateau or possible end in failure because as the environment changes you won’t. Or you can be a lion, constantly looking for the advantage and adapting to your environment. You’ll implement something that succeeds because it is adapted for the environment. In business transformation or cultural change this is the key. By all means learn from others, it is the only way to innovate, but make sure you take the essence and embed it into your own culture, in a way that will work. If you do this then you will be likely to find success.