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If You’re Not Fast

I was on a fascinating CEO summit yesterday. Guest speakers were some of (in my opinion) the leading business thought leaders of the day. They included Jim Collins; ‘Good to Great’ and ‘Turning the Flywheel’; Verne Harnish; ‘Scaling Up’ and ‘Mastering The Rockefeller Habits’; Ram Charan; ‘Execution’ and ‘The Amazon Management System’; and Pat Lencioni; ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team’ and ‘The Motive’. This morning I ran a quarterly planning day with a client company and one of the ‘Growth Tools’ that we used was SWT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Trends). Both of these experiences had one common theme. That theme was change. It may seem an obvious thing to say but the rate of change is incredible. It is and always has been the older persons lament, but the rate of change has been increasing for a number of years and of course the global pandemic has forced change and accelerated it still further. One of the biggest challenges for businesses trying to get back to business will be how quickly and adeptly they can change and adapt. Not just to the conditions but to the external circumstances and changing expectations. It is remarkable how quickly consumers expectations change following new standards being set. Because of Amazon we now expect instant availability and next day delivery. If we can’t get it tomorrow we are likely to move on. For many of us three months of lockdown have proved that we do not need to leave the house, ever. We can have everything we need delivered to us, for free, by tomorrow if not today. So for many of us this will have driven changes in our behaviour and our expectations. If our business cannot react to changes in the external world our days will be numbered. Remember when Darwin observed that ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.’ who would have thought that his words would be so very pertinent to our businesses almost 200 years later? It is worth doing the SWT exercise with your team to help identify the trends that might impact on your business and assess the resilience you have to deal with them or take advantage of them. If Blockbuster had been more aware of the emerging trend of video streaming, they may not have fallen victim to it in the way they did. Contact me if you would like a copy of the growth tools sending out. But the greatest impediment to change lies in between the ears of the people in charge. If they are not prepared to change and to grow, the business, which is a reflection of the people that run that business will neither change or grow. I have never found a company where the sustainable growth rate of the business exceeds the personal growth rate of the people running the business and, as Jack Welch said, ‘If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.’