Lessons From A Scarecrow

In business sticking with the tried and tested can sometimes lead to failure.

Bev James considers how a countryside bike ride inspired her to think about the importance of innovation in business and how to deal with change effectively.  

When I want to relax and unwind there is nothing I enjoy more than getting my bike out and going for long rides in the countryside around my home. As well as keeping me fit and healthy I find that regular exercise in the open air is a great way to clear my mind.

Being out in the open for a couple of hours away from mobiles phones and the internet also gives me a chance to let my mind wander, so it is no coincidence that I come up with new ideas and solutions to problems while I’m out on the road.

Recently, while I was on a cycling expedition, I came across a scarecrow in a field which happened to have a crow perched on its head. At the time, I smiled to myself but the random sighting set off a train of thought around the nature of change and how to deal with problems as and when they arise.

Obviously, a farmer had taken the time and effort to make a scarecrow and then put it in his field for a very good reason - to keep the birds away from his crops, but the very fact that a crow was quite happy to use the scarecrow as a perch was a pretty sure sign that the tried and tested measures of keeping pests at bay were no longer having the desired effect.

As I said, this random sighting ignited a train of thought around how businesses deal with change and how sticking with the same routines and methods can fool people into a dangerous and false sense of security.

It is an easy trap to fall into but I have lost count of the number of times I have seen for myself companies making the same mistake over and over again.

So many of us like routine and feel more comfortable with the familiar; but in business sticking with the tried and tested can sometimes lead to failure.

When businesses are first set up, systems are devised to carry out certain functions but often things are left unchanged as the firm develops and evolves. If you ask an individual employee why they are doing something in a certain way, they will usually tell you that it is because they have always done it that way. It can often take someone from outside of an organisation to point out obvious faults or mistakes.

If a company is rigid and sticks to the same routines and methods, it runs the risk of repeating failures over and over again.

Of course systems are put in place for a reason and if something is not broken then there is no point in trying to fix it.

However, if something is not working properly or is no longer a necessary part of the business, there is no point sticking with tradition for the sake of tradition.

However, at this point I would urge caution when it comes to imposing whole-scale change in an attempt to try and fix an ailing business. It could be that a product is no longer popular with customers or a rival has come up with a cheaper and better option.

When a difficult situation arises, there can be a temptation to throw the kitchen sink at the problem and try to change everything in one go. In my experience, that kind of shock and awe approach can be just as dangerous and damaging as blindly sticking with tradition.

If you think of a business in terms of an engine, the organisation is operating at its best when all the key components are well cared for and work together properly.

If one part of a business ceases to function properly it makes no sense to scrap the whole engine; it is far more economical and practical to fix or replace the misfiring component. That is why if there is a problem that needs fixing it is much better to take a methodical approach.

Take a look at the processes within a business one step at a time rather than introducing a whole load of changes in one go. If you work your way through each part of the business logically and methodically then sooner or later you will find your own version of the scarecrow – one that actually works!

Picture courtesy of ddpavumba/Free Digital Photos.net 

Bev James is CEO of The Academy Group including the Entrepreneurs' Business Academy and EBA for Coaches, joint ventures with James Caan; and The Coaching Academy – the world largest training school for coaches. She is a millionaires' mentor, a serial entrepreneur and author of DO IT! or DITCH IT: Turn Ideas into Action and Make Decisions That Count – 8 Steps to Business Success. 

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