Change Management



Many contemporary change programs for TQM, JIT, SQC, etc. advocate a checklist of organizational prerequisites that must be met to ensure success. In most cases, if those prerequisites were met, the company would have already made significant progress toward the program objectives! As organizations, we do not typically have the luxury of time and foresight to prepare so completely before declaring war! The key is to assess the organ­izational strengths we have and deploy them with a strategy that can gain ground while the other prerequisites are addressed.

At the start of the 1980s the half-life of technical knowledge in engineering was estimated to be about 10 years. Today, that same estimate pegs the half-life at approximately 5 years. The compa­nies that first mobilize new technical knowledge in their products steal a significant march on their competition. As access increases and our global economies intertwine we must consider global markets and be aware of global competitors or risk ambush from an unsuspected quarter.

Much of this new technical knowledge has been harnessed for use in information processing. Many companies now realize that the first to mobilize information technology to create new ways of doing business can also outflank their competition. More manu­facturers are impacted daily as these new methods move back up the supply chain from the retailer and distributor. The combined effect of this rapidly changing battlefield is the less than half of the Fortune 500 identified in 1980 are still on that list today! This is a war that will be won by the attackers who constantly challenge the status quo and themselves with innovative products and approaches to conducting their business.

It-is both interesting and useful to think of analogies of war when considering how to respond to this new, dynamic environment. In 542 the Huns swept across continental Europe leaving con­quered countries in their wake. Theirs was a unique approach to battle at that time and achieved success over larger numbers of better armed adversaries. It is no surprise that the Battle Secrets ofAttila the Hun is a current bestseller! The successful attacker is the one who examines the battlefield, determines his strengths and changes the rules of engagement.

After the first world war, the French vowed that no one would ever again breach their eastern boundary. They constructed the Maginot Line as a solid wall of defensive fortifications against

their foes. The new strategy of Blitzkrieg rendered the defenses ineffective and left France poorly prepared for the unforeseen threat. In the battles of companies and economics the battlefield is the marketplace and the vanquished are bankrupt rather than dead, but the same principles apply. The strongest must abandon their technologies and skill base when all is going well if they are to reinvent themselves to survive on this dynamic battlefield.


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