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Change Versus Excellence: What Side Are You On?


Every organization and individual faces the inevitable battle between two ways of viewing the world. You have:

“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.” – Walt Disney

And then you have:

“Some people see things as they are and say why?  I dream things that never were and say, why not?” – George Bernard Shaw

This blog suggests we spend more time reviewing the processes of change versus excellence. Clearly companies like Kodak and Blockbuster are examples of sticking with a formula too long. In contrast, companies frequently change executives, sell and make investments, with little or no outcome. For example, NBA teams replaced six coaches in the middle of this season, and not one of them significantly improved results.

The debate of pursuing improved excellence versus change is affected by a number of issues. We need to understand how problems affected by goals versus tactics can require different solutions. Here are some examples where organizations simply need to understand their new environment and execute fundamental change:

  • Demographics are a critical factor in most businesses. The world is simply getting older and more ethnically diverse. For example, minority births represent more than 50 percent of current U.S. births.
  • Organizations that don’t understand and use the digital transformation need to change, rather than just execute. New opportunities like the cloud, Google, internet, CRM systems, digital phones, apps, etc. are simply changing the processes, costs, and marketing of business. For example, Amazon and other online retailers are revolutionizing the need for traditional brick and mortar stores to react. Similarly, sharing sites like Uber and Airbnb are revolutionizing their industries.
  • Businesses are subject to more radical change and need to build mechanisms into their processes. While we will face more uncertainty and instability, we need to focus on changing and simplifying processes to reduce the risks. Strategies like pivoting, and develop/test/measure/adapt, need to be built in our organizations.

While change is critical in many environments, we frequently ignore opportunities to do things better. Some simple examples include:

  • Eliminating process costs and bureaucracy from our organizations. Reviewing how and why we do things can be highly rewarding.
  • Simply focusing on your customer in terms of whether you are satisfying their product, service, and value needs. For example, many companies have improved results by setting a goal of exceeding rather than just meeting customer needs.
  • Pricing is not a dirty word, and there are numerous tools to improve results without deteriorating your brand. Packaging efforts like bundling and unbundling, quantities, timing, quality, the internet, and service, are all elements that should be part of pricing strategies. For example, Costco and Four Seasons Hotels follow quite different, but successful, value strategies.
  • All these actions get better the more open and analytical an organization is. Stated simply, businesses need to understand their environment, review their successes and failures, and listen to new ideas. In short, don’t get trapped into Jack Nicholson’s famous movie quote, ”You can’t handle the truth.”
  • Finally, people are your most important asset. Hire excellent people or resources, and then listen to them and reward their behavior.

In summary, the most important aspect of this discussion is to evaluate situations and determine the appropriate strategy. The assumptions, results, effort, and process can be greatly aided. Evaluating alternatives can also help build support for the processes that are executed.

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