Resilience, See?

In the Sept. 24 edition of their newsletter Emblagram, the staff of Embla5, a leadership development organization for high-achieving women, comments on Gary Hamel and Liisa Valikangas's recent Harvard Business Review article, "The Quest for Resilience."

In that piece, Hamel and Valikangas pick up where Jim Collins left off, suggesting that the momentum that used to allow large companies to continue to succeed isn't as powerful a force as it once was. Riffing off the old idea of "zero defects," the authors suggest that perhaps we need to consider "zero trauma."

Strategic resilience is not about responding to a onetime crisis. It's not about rebounding from a setback. It's about continuously anticipating and adjusting to deep, secular trends that can permanently impair the earning power of a core business. It's about having the capacity to change before the case for change becomes desperately obvious.

In so doing, they make a solid case for the need to be more flexible in the face of ongoing change. Among their advice:

  • Senior managers must make a habit of visiting the places where change happens first.
  • You have to filter out the filterers.
  • You have to face up to the inevitability of strategy decay.

They go on to expand on some of the reasons why strategies decay and fall by the wayside:

  • Over time they get replicated; they lose their distinctiveness and, therefore, their power to produce above-average returns.
  • Good strategies also get supplanted by better strategies.
  • Strategies get exhausted as markets become saturated, customers get bored, or optimization programs reach the point of diminishing returns.
  • Strategies get eviscerated.

By concentrating on variety and ongoing innovation, leaders can better respond to changes in their organizations, in their industries, and in the world.

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