icm2re logo. icm2:re (I Changed My Mind Reviewing Everything) is an  ongoing web column  by Brunella Longo

This column deals with some aspects of change management processes experienced almost in any industry impacted by the digital revolution: how to select, create, gather, manage, interpret, share data and information either because of internal and usually incremental scope - such learning, educational and re-engineering processes - or because of external forces, like mergers and acquisitions, restructuring goals, new regulations or disruptive technologies.

The title - I Changed My Mind Reviewing Everything - is a tribute to authors and scientists from different disciplinary fields that have illuminated my understanding of intentional change and decision making processes during the last thirty years, explaining how we think - or how we think about the way we think. The logo is a bit of a divertissement, from the latin divertere that means turn in separate ways.


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What is interesting keeps changing

In search of excellence during and after the pandemic

How to cite this article?
Longo, Brunella (2020). What is interesting keeps changing. In search of excellence during and after the pandemic. icm2re [I Changed my Mind Reviewing Everything ISSN 2059-688X (Online)], 9.6 (June). http://www.icm2re.com/2020-6.html

How to cite this article?
Longo, Brunella (2020). What is interesting keeps changing. In search of excellence during and after the pandemic. icm2re [I Changed my Mind Reviewing Everything ISSN 2059-688X (Print)], 9.6 (June). http://www.icm2re.com/2020-6.html

London, 5 June 2020 - In a period of just over three months it seems the number of opinions, cases, suggestions available in the public domain about change management in any format has grown exponentially.

Health is paramount but without being able to pay the bills, to buy food or medicines it is unlikely that one can stay healthy for long. In essence, this is the very reason why everybody needs to go further the ordinary and talks about the change induced (or not) by covid-19.

What has to be done to bring about change in all sorts of contexts and circumstances is dominating the personal, the social and the media agenda and with a shrinking space for experts! These are, in fact, start questioning the validity of some assumptions about people responses to change and the change models usually adopted in projects and programmes by large organisations.

Social media are particularly full of chronicles of people talking about domestic calvary and new endeavours, like working from home, starting new businesses, embracing new tasks, dealing with learning or sorrow.

A resurgence of interest for change management?

So, what can I add on the subject of change during this emergency times without causing boredom? It is not mandatory at all that I say something intelligent but I should try to in order not to annoy at least myself.

It would not surprise me if, as an effect of the pandemic, the field of studies about change management would experience a resurgence of interest similar to that of the decade 1995-2005.

It was at that time, namely in 2001, that even Tom Peters (of Peters and Waterman, authors of one of the most successful management bestsellers of all times, In search of excellence, firstly published in 1982) wrote that what is interesting keeps changing, reflecting on the management mindset needed for the new internet economy that was emerging after the first dot com bubble burst in 2000-2001. In an updated ranking of the most important business skill for the new century, Peters wrote at that time he would consider being able to manage change at speed more important than searching for excellence (1). How true, as the relevance of good enough decision-making would soon become very fashionable in business like in sport (2), under the pressure of data managed through new ICT systems.

Nonetheless, he did not deny the validity and usefulness of the principles In search of excellence was all about. Neither would I, not even forty years on.

Sticking to the knitting

On the contrary, I would say that having recognised that nothing is permanent and there is no one single best way to achieve business goals (as well as satisfaction in life and sports!), one of those very important business principles is still helpful and that is sticking to the knitting, keep doing, revising, improving what you are very good at.

In the introduction of a new 2012 edition of the book(3), Tom Peters and Bob Waterman write that they have been delighted they “mainly got it right” and remind us that one of the attributes of successful organisations they identified consists in simultaneous loose - tight properties.

Sorry for about this chapter heading - they insist - but it does say what we mean. Any well-functioning organisation is neither centralised nor decentralised but a wonderful combination of both. Around most dimensions the best companies, then and now, are loose. They give people exceptional freedom to do things their own way. At the same time, the great companies are highly centralised around a few crucial dimensions: the central values that make up their culture, one or two (no more) top strategic priorities, and a few key financial indicators. .

Referring to the examples offered in the chapter Stick to the knitting the authors advise that business diversity almost never works. Be particularly leery of the word synergy which sounds great - who doesn’t want 1+1 to equal 3? Well, our observation, then and now, is that big mergers rarely work. Further, nothing screws up a successful business more than hyper-fast growth.

I think these may sound sad words but they offer useful advice for times when thinking about the next revolution(s), the next partner(s), the next future(s) becomes demanding.

That is what I had to say for this issue of icm2re. I am glad someone else said it, more or less, before.

We all have to find our own loose - tight, always changing ways to stick to our knitting, whatever that means in our specific context, including paradoxes and very weird contradictions no change management expert will be able to solve.

References

(1) Tom Peters’s True Confessions, Fast Company Magazine, December 2001.

(2) I refer here to the success of ideas and concepts of sabermetrics in business and management literature, following the publication of (and the movie based on it) Lewis, Michael M. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game Norton, 2003.

(3) Peters, T. , R. Waterman Jr, In search of excellence, Profile Books, 2012.