Dual Transformation: Subversive Serrapeptase; Catalysing Collagen

“Without changing the structure of your organisation, I would argue that [innovation] will not work.” – John Chambers (former CEO Cisco)
Many of us feel the bodily repercussions of middle age with joint pain, scar tissue and stiff muscles. While we mostly forget what led to these issues, our bodies keep the score. About two years ago, I embarked on a journey of physical reinvention. It strikes me how much this experience mirrors the formidable task of organisational transformation. To elaborate, I use the analogy of two supplements: serrapeptase to break down existing structures and collagen to rebuild them anew.

Don’t Eat Your Seed Corn: Tenant Farmers Don’t Pick Up Rocks

“Tenant farmers don’t pick up rocks.” Just as tenant farmers, who have short-term leases on the land they cultivate, lack the incentive to invest in long-term improvements like clearing the fields of rocks, some leaders with increasingly short tenures hesitate to make crucial investments in the future of their organisations. Rather than focus on initiatives that require time and resources to bear fruit, they often shutter them, earn a bonus on their efforts, and are out the gate before the lack of seedcorn becomes apparent. Consequently, the organisation becomes stuck in a cycle of short-term gains, missing out on the long-term benefits that arise from seedcorn investments and productivity programmes akin to picking up rocks.

Dragon attacking a ship

Here Be Dragons: Embracing Uncertainty

To successfully navigate the new world, we must humbly accept; that we don’t know what we don’t know. Like the mapmakers of the past, we must accept that accepting ignorance had to come before embracing knowledge. In the business world, this means a departure from the world of a five-year plan (map) in favour of the uncertain harbour of a five-year direction, where an organisational North Star serves as a magnetic force. This new mental map leaves enough room for uncertainty, deviation and exploration, just like the Ribeiro map.

An image of balloons shrinking

The Rise Before The Stall: The Seneca Effect

The Seneca Effect, also known as the Seneca Cliff or Seneca Collapse, is a concept named after the ancient Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca. The effect is based on Seneca’s quote, “Fortune is of sluggish growth, but ruin is rapid.” He observed that many things in nature, including human affairs, systems and civilisations, tend to decline much more rapidly than they ascend.

An image of one bad apple

Black Walnuts, Broken Windows, Bad Apples: Hire Slow and Fire Fast

If you neglect to remove the black walnut, you will see a gradual departure of the surrounding species to healthier pastures, with the younger saplings leading the way. In conclusion, just as removing a black walnut tree from an environment restores balance and promotes healthy growth, it’s essential to address toxic employees in the workplace to maintain a positive and productive work environment. It is essential to repair the broken windows.

An image of a chameleon

Chameleonic Cultures

When an organisation recalibrates to adopt a radically new strategy, most leaders focus on the changes in processes, practices and procedures. These are the mechanics of business, the easiest to measure and easier to implement. Successful change efforts engage both the mechanics and humanics of change. The humanics involves the community, collaboration and culture. In a world of constant change, organisations must adopt a “chameleonic” culture, one that is capable of rapid change in line with strategic change.

A old lady becoming younger

Organisational Senescence: Senescent Skillsets 

Some organisations engage in renewal as an event rather than an ongoing process. In such cases, they find their organisational skillsets and capabilities are inadequate for the new reality. Often employees who excelled in a previous reality struggle in the new paradigm. In some cases, these employees become senescent. They can even act like a senescent cell and influence those around them to become toxic and malevolent.


Throwing the Hail Mary Pass: Organisational Fight or Flight

Businesses throw Hail Marys when encountering a crisis, such as declining sales or disruptive innovation, or technology suddenly upends their business plan. Equally, leaders throw Hail Marys to meet analyst expectations when they have been coasting in the game for a long time. In sports, there is a thin line between arrogance and confidence, and business organisations often fall into the success trap.

Organisational Range Anxiety: Nothing Vast Enters Life Without a Curse

In today’s business world of flux, explore units are agile, decentralised, experimental cultures, loose work processes, strong entrepreneurial and technical competencies, and relatively young and neurodiverse employees. In contrast to the exploit units, these small entrepreneurial units are inefficient, rarely profitable, and have no established histories. They often deliberately violate the norms valued in older parts of the organization.

Because the explore units are wildly different from the exploit incumbent, explorers are often undermined by the parent company, whose short-term needs override exploration. While the exploit teams win in the short term, they sink the company in the long.

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