Sunday, September 1, 2013

Beating the world's biggest . . .

“Change is a common thread that runs through all businesses . . . Our world is changing fast and, as such, organizations must change quickly too. Organizations that handle change well thrive . . . The concept of "change management" is a familiar one in most businesses today. But, how businesses manage change . . . varies enormously depending on the nature of the business, the change and the people involved. And a key part of this depends on how far people within it understand the change process. One of the cornerstone models for understanding . . . change was developed by Kurt Lewin . . . in the 1950s. His model (known as Unfreeze – Change – Refreeze) refers to the three-stage process of change he describes. Lewin, a physicist as well as social scientist, explained . . . change using the analogy of changing the shape of a block of ice: If you have a large cube of ice, but realize that what you want is a cone of ice, what do you do? First you must melt the ice to make it amenable to change (unfreeze). Then you must mold the iced water into the shape you want (change). Finally, you must solidify the new shape (refreeze).” []
While my first meeting ten years ago with my Eastern European friends was a hasty 15 minutes owing to an earlier commitment that I couldn't adjust, beyond their smarts and sincerity that I thought came through was their "dream" to beat the world's biggest consumer-products company in their local market. I told them that they were once my old MNC company's competition too. And job-one was to transform their "dream" into a "sensible plan," i.e., to elevate its probability of success. And that I knew a little about competing with and beating them. But of course we also had the resources of a Fortune 500 and which my then new friends didn’t have. Yet they were a bunch of hardy, young stout-hearted men and women – which we Pinoys would probably call naïve! 
Fast forward: In the war room that we created, the battle cry was straightforward. For perspective, the market value of the company that we put in our crosshair would approximate the GDP of PHL (where the 50 wealthiest Pinoys, representing oligarchy, owned the equivalent of over 25% of our GDP – i.e., but that would still be only a fraction of our target.) And we focused on their biggest business in the local market – i.e., to win in this arena would give us the wherewithal to become a regional and then a global player.
If a Philippine president couldn't take on oligarchy, my Eastern European friends had taken on a bigger target and won! How? They had to unlearn what they thought were their smarts! (They had to learn Lewin’s “change model.”) And they were honest enough to admit that their smarts would be overwhelmed by the competition.  And that is a problem for Juan de la Cruz and why he has succumbed to “learned helplessness” – i.e., his smarts are too big to unlearn? We are well-schooled – and know it all? Our culture is to be proud of – and it can't be unlearned? We are hierarchy-fearing – and thus subservient? We seek harmony – and thus see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil?
How do we think Myanmar or Cambodia is viewing the world – or even Vietnam? And before them, what about our neighbors that became the Asian tigers? Of course, Juan de la Cruz is smarter than all of them put together? And that explains why we're the laggards? If we are to behave like winners we better learn how change comes about? Two things violated my Pinoy sensibilities when I joined my old MNC company: (a) that English was my second language and (b) that I had to attend a 'managing change' program . . . And about change, I've realized that change is indeed the only thing constant. And which explains why after ten years I’m still in Eastern Europe – i.e., I have to keep updating the syllabus in my head. And especially given that my friends learned innovation from me – i.e., I can’t teach innovation if I’m in the past, of the past and for the past? But which we Pinoys are proud about because we represent old-world values? Is that for real or are we simply being holier-than-thou? And precisely why we can’t be receptive to change? Too bad . . . so sad?
[Disclosure: Beyond a once lazy student, I never saw myself as creative. But I hurdled those exams – from high school entrance to GMAT – apparently because of, but then foreign to me, my spatial ability; and why my first employer offered for me to join the then new IT department (IBM folks saw my spatial test scores) after I turned in my resignation, ten months after my hiring. But I never saw myself as a programmer either. Adios.]

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