Hyper-glib purveyor of management gobbledygook Gary Hamel lifts our hopes when he quips at the Wall Street Journal blog: "I don't know if I'll write another book." From your mouth to God's ear, Gary.
He goes on to kill the joy, however, by offering his Cliff's Notes explanation of how a business can "outrun change." It's what we've come to expect from the man who has mastered the art of stringing together breezy advice ("deconstruct your orthodoxies") and fawning pseudo-case studies. You want to outrun change in today's economy? Piece of cake. Imagine alternative futures, include more diversity in your decision-making, learn to experiment quickly.
There's plenty more advice like that, but how about we sum it up? Here's your pocket Hamel: Learn to change by, well, learning to change.
The challenge isn't, after all, that managers don't realize creative destruction demands adaptation. The challenge is that we don't bloody well know how to adapt without careening off a cliff.
And this is the problem with so many Change Gurus--they neglect the reality that an organization is by its very nature a collection of stable routines. It evolves a culture and a way of doing things by virtue of solving problems. Its culture is, as Edgar Schein writes, the residue of success. Tampering with that stuff is essential in the long run, but dangerous. For every breathless Fast Company feature about some company that successfully innovated, in fact, we would all be well-served by a few obituaries of companies that innovated and died because of it. Not changing in today's economy can kill you, but changing in the wrong direction can kill you even faster.