I had a chance to hear speaker/consultant David Hurst today discuss his book Crisis & Renewal about how organizations need to change continuously to stay competitive and productive. As with many intense presentations it will take some time to get his points in perspective, but the implications for Human Resources (HR) and how people lead and manage organizations are clearly important to get a grip on.
Coincidentally I’m also re-reading The Toyota Way and see some interesting contrasts and parallels. Both agree that you need to create a sense of crisis to keep people forging forward in organizations. Sounds bit like "burning platform," which I’ve always objected to.
In Hurst’s view he likens the necessary crisis to the choice in forestry management of making controlled burns to eliminate dead underbrush or trying to avoid fires entirely – which only allows deadwood to pile up and ensure a monstrous, uncontrolled fire at some point in future. Toyota decided to pursue a sensible long term strategy – to build a car that was 40% more fuel efficient in five years or so. Then a new CEO moved the target to 100% great efficiency and cut development time to 18 months. That created a "crisis" for the team to be sure, but one which the company had some clear reasons to believe was possible.
In a sense you could say the choice to develop the hybrid Prius early (and incidentally get a huge jump on the market and grab an 80% share out of the gate) was a ‘controlled fire’ within Toyota’s ability to manage rather than waiting for the ultimate melt-down that we’re likely to see at some of the big 3.