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You have big plans to make change happen this year and, as everyone knows, with change comes risk. Risk of failure. Of embarrassment. Of rejection.
It’s the great neutralizer of leadership. On the one hand, you want breakthrough results. on the other, you don’t want to stick your neck out too far.
When you find yourself in this predicament, it may be time to reassess how you think about risk.
Every day, your customers are becoming more knowledgeable about their choices. Everyday, your competitors are becoming more skilled at delivering what those customers want.
Change is no longer just for the leading edge innovators – it’s the new price of admission to the party. You MUST change just to keep up. The march of time is your worst enemy if you choose to stand still as the world changes around you.
So what’s the more hazardous proposition – getting a few scrapes and bruises in a valiant effort to leapfrog your competitors? Or doing nothing in the hope that they don’t leapfrog you?
Once you realize that the risk of doing nothing is catastrophic, it becomes much easier to
embrace the risk of potential failure. At least you’ll be controlling your own destiny.
In 1859, Charles Darwin wrote a groundbreaking book called “The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection”. In it, he demonstrated that any species would either survive or become extinct, based on its ability to mutate and adapt to a changing environment.
Beneficial and benign mutations are passed on to successive generations of the species.
Detrimental mutations are quickly wiped out.
If your organization were a species, then its overall success hinges on the ability of its
population to adapt to change. If your people can quickly mutate in response to a changing business environment, then your “species” will thrive.
The bad news for Darwinian species is that mutation seems to be random. The luck of the draw dictates whether a generational mutation will be benficial, benign or detrimental.
The good news for your organizational species is that you can change the environment to breed a lot of beneficial mutation. (And a little luck never hurts, either!)
As a supply chain professional, you probably find yourself surrounded with logical,
scientific folks on a daily basis – engineers and mathie types. No question, they’re technically brilliant and critical to your organization’s success. But such an environment may prove to be a poor breeding ground for beneficial mutation.
When there isn’t sufficient cross-fertilization within the species, the mutations are more
often harmful. It’s why we tend to avoid reproducing with our siblings!
If you’re thinking “Of course they have similar backgrounds, after all they’re doing similar work”, then you may be part of the problem. It should be part of EVERYONE’S job to change the work they do for the better. To beneficially mutate.
You need to cherish differences across all dimensions (gender, religion, educational
background) and hire yourself some weirdos!
We can attest to this first hand. Years ago, we worked on a team whose mission was to
dramatically improve supply chain planning.
The design (or mutation) that emerged from this team was elegantly brilliant and simple. Less forecasting, not more. Focusing all forecasting effort at the point of consumption and scheduling the rest.
Here’s what’s cool. That team consisted of people with the following backgrounds:
- a beef farmer
- an accountant
- an economist
- a PhD candidate in Operations Research
- a computer science graduate
- an engineer
- a general laborer
- a math major
A very diverse group. Here’s what’s even cooler. The breakthrough idea was from the accountant. Someone with normal education or experience whatsoever in supply chain planning.
Hire more folks that don’t seem to fit into the pre-defined mold job you’re trying to fill. Find people that make you feel uncomfortable. Weirdos. Eccentrics. People from completely different backgrounds with wildly varying experiences. People who ask a lot of questions. People who have had it with the status quo. People who want to explore and to learn.
You’ll find that change will become the norm and adaptation will become a way of life.