Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Organizational Renewal

In "Reinvent Your Business Before It's Too Late," Paul Nunes and Tim Breene discuss the strategic necessity of reinventing a successful business while it is still successful. In practice, this means a shift from an existing success story to a gamble on a new venture because all businesses "run out of room to grow," sooner or later.

The late John Gardner wrote extensively about leadership and organizations, including the need for "regenerative forces" in business. Gardner's analysis complements Nunes and Breene's writing. His understanding of the purposes of renewal included:

  • Reinterpreting values that have been corroded or abandoned, and generating new values
  • Update old procedures and habits
  • Re-energize forgotten goals and generate new goals for new circumstances
  • Release human potential through education and constant efforts to improve understanding
Gardner's thinking is certainly not outdated, as renewal and reinvention is vital in the business world, governance, and other sectors. Businesses can stagnate if they do not innovate, eventually getting overrun by the next generation. Apple is a great example of a business that could have been trampled in the market, but instead thrived through visionary thinking. Apple's share of the PC market is only 12% (and that's an improvement), but Apple accepted its niche in the computer market because it reinvented itself as the cutting edge of miniaturized technology (iPods, iPhones, tablets, etc...).

As for steps that leaders can take to renew their organizations, Gardner suggests the following:
  • Develop employees, and give them the space to use their talents and energies
  • Reassign personnel to avoid internal divisions and monotony
  • Listen to other opinions and dissent to avoid groupthink and consider new directions
  • Communicate within the organization and with constituents to stay in touch
Like Nunes and Breene, Gardner provides valuable insight on how to stay ahead of the curve. Organizations that renew and reinvent themselves can remain successful, while organizations that get stuck in the past are often relegated to history. 

What organizations seem to be the best at reinvention? The worst?

John Gardner, On Leadership, The Free Press, 1990, pages 121-130.
Kelly Hodgkins, "Apple's PC market share now up to 12% in US, reports state," Tuaw, 12 July 2012, (accessed 27 March 2013).

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