The edge will find you

Icebergs fracture at theIr edges.

Landmasses erode at the coast.

Businesses change at their edges.

Despite that, most businesses respond to change by retreating towards the centre.

They focus on business as usual and take comfort in easily managed lagging indicators. Margins. ROA. Annual profit.

It’s easy to find comfort in wilful blindness, and to avoid the difficult and scary work that takes place at the edge, where there is no historic data, no best practice, and no maps because nobody else has been their either.

People operating in the centre don’t need leadership; they need effective management. Best Practice. The centre isn’t going anywhere.

Leadership is required at the edge. The place where there are varied, unproven options, all with a real risk of failure. Where people need to be inspired, to commit and do it anyway.

As change becomes faster and more complex, the edges get closer, and they will find us.

It’s a good time to look round. Who will follow you? Who might you lead?

Gradually, then Suddenly

“How did you go bankrupt?
Two ways. Gradually, then Suddenly.”

Ernest Hemingway. The Sun Also Rises

Any of us who have been involved in a failed venture will identify with this. Things happen at the edges, small at first. They happen in several areas, still small, but becoming slightly bigger and more numerous. None big enough to be a crisis in their own right, because we have other things, “noisier” issues to attend to.

Promises and assurances from partners and suppliers (particularly Banks, as they position you as carrion) suddenly evaporate.

Then, we have a “Suddenly” moment. Obvious in retrospect, but almost sneaky in the moment.

The lesson, once learned, is obvious. It isn’t the noise that will kill the project, it’s the quiet insidious intrusion of calculated self interest. For those with practice, it’s part of the game. For those new to it, a surprise.

The same is true for most areas; Business, Politics, Careers. The signals are there long before the event eventually manifests.

What’s interesting right now is that we are facing the challenge simultaneously on several fronts, all of them interdependent.

Business, Climate, Politics. All of these have been exhibiting signal for a while-decades in some cases.

I’m an optimist. This has been coming for a while, and is probably as necessary as it will be uncomfortable.

The “Suddenlies” will test our values, our purpose and our relationships, as well as determination to come out of this change stronger.

We will be presented with choices. We need, individually and collectively, to make good ones.