Be Wary of Stagnation

April 10, 2014


All companies need to be wary of stagnation.

Okay – I have a question for the men out there, but it comes with a warning. I am about to make a huge generalisation – so prepare yourself. Take a deep breath. Do not be offended.

My question is – what is it with men and boards and senior management teams dominated by men that makes them so resistant to change?

 Let me explain.

 My consulting work is moving me more into strategy. I have a knack for seeing untapped opportunities within a company and helping them to change. As part of doing this work, I use an internal feedback process and meld that with opportunity analysis and presto – new opportunities for driving profit, sales and growth always seem to emerge.

That’s good news, right? One would think but lately I’ve run up against some real walls when it comes to moving a company to act on the change. Not to stereotype, but the biggest walls to change that I face are often put up by men.

In one case, there was great internal support for a project. The sales team was on board, they were asking for the change and they loved the solution I proposed. They could see how it could take their business to the next level and were excited about the project and the prospects. Then the Board got involved.

They didn’t agree with the change. They didn’t see the issue as an issue. And the project has now stagnated.

In analysing what went wrong, the key thing I and the team could distil is that the Board could not see the opportunity in the same way the rest of us saw the opportunity. So rather than engaging and querying, the Board simply said no.

Now look, I get it. One could easily argue the point with me, “Lisa, you didn’t present the information to the Board in the right way.” And to some degree, I get that. I am willing to say I had a role to play in them saying no. Perhaps it was not couched in ‘Board speak.’ So yep, I am willing to take that on board.

However, doesn’t a Board also have an obligation – simply by the act of being a Board – to query, ask questions and engage even when it might challenge them? Isn’t this their job? If a proposal is brought to them that their sales team is excited by and the senior management team supports, shouldn’t they look at their internal process and debate and question why they are not supporting it?

And this is why I deliberately used the word stagnation. Time and time again, as those of us who have been in the industry a long time get older, I am seeing stagnation. I am seeing less willingness among older, stable companies to be inventive and explorative; to do things in a new way.

Instead, they are becoming slower moving and change resistant. In short, they are stagnating. A lack of fresh ideas coming from fresh faces means they no longer seem to want to be challenged, instead replying on past success and methods to create future success.

It worries me.

So here’s the question: how innovative is your company? How does it drive change or bring in new innovation and ideas? How stable is your Board? Are they moving with the times…or resting on past success.

Our gorgeous industry is facing continual competitive threats – threats that mean you can’t stand still and look back on past success. You must look forward and challenge yourself to reinvent your thinking every day. It needs to be a part of the company culture – and questioning senior management and the Board should be welcomed…if not encouraged!

Perhaps my thinking is too radical. You tell me. Agree? Disagree? Please share your thoughts.