Change / transformation Leadership Management / Strategy

When the well runs dry, dig a new well

Talk about a paradox: The most important things in our lives are often the things we think about the least.

Take water. We turn on the faucet and there it is. It’s amazing how quickly we take something like that for granted.

Then comes a day like yesterday. A water main broke down the street. Suddenly, our toilets wouldn’t fill. Our faucets ran dry. We couldn’t wash our hands, or fill our cups, or shower, or brush our teeth.

And lord, were we angry.

It didn’t last long. After about four horrible hours our water flowed once again, and we got back down to the business of ignoring the really important stuff. It’s amazing what entitled asses we can be sometimes.

But let’s say the water didn’t come back on — didn’t ever come back on, in fact. Would we eventually quit complaining and start looking for solutions?

Only if we’re smart.

As we speak, our competitive advantages — the things that have defined us for years and set us apart from the competition — are running out. There are people out there who can do the same things faster, cheaper, and better than we ever could.

Where will our water come from now?

Business expert Rita McGrath has some ideas. She has identified six steps that all organizations should take as they try to find their next competitive advantage.

Futurist and best-selling author Daniel Burrus has boiled it down to just one step — anticipation. The ability to recognize what’s going to happen and position our organizations to take advantage of it is so important that Burrus calls anticipation the key missing competency of its time. Here’s what he told me about the importance of anticipation:

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Of course, you have another option as well: Do nothing. Nobody is holding a gun to your head over any of this stuff. As W. Edwards Deming once said, "It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory."

Put another way, courtesy of retired Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki: “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”


William D. Sheridan