Corporate change and chainsaws

December 9th, 2013

Corporate change and chainsaws

Okay, before you make the assumption that this article is about cutting people in your organisation, I want you to work with me on this metaphor just for a moment.

Where I live there are two old oak trees, one of which lost a branch this week. Looking at the debris on the ground, it was obvious that rot had set in throughout most of the branch and it was in pretty poor shape.

I know what you're thinking: "Right, this article is about cutting the dead wood away from organisations to make them more efficient. Old story - heard it before - Well, it isn't. It really is about chainsaws. Sort of anyway...

A dull tale

A couple of years ago I decided to invest in a chainsaw so that I could feed the wood burner at home. Looking around at the possibilities and trying to get the best value for money, I thought I'd chosen wisely. After all, the company's ads told me how tough they were, I was familiar with the brand, it was shiny, and it was excellent value, so I bought one.

It came with a hard case, it started straight out of the box, and chewed through everything I put in front of it. I have to say I was pretty pleased - and I continued to be until the blade dulled.

I told myself that all blades dull. All I needed to do was get it sharpened. But I didn't get it sharpened straight away, and then I moved house away from the wood burner. My shiny chainsaw went into storage to await other challenges in the future.

So, back to those oak trees, the falling branch and my lesson about chainsaws (and the point of this short article)...

Having been out of action for a long time, of course my chainsaw wouldn't start and required a service. My starting point was someone who I knew in the trade. "I'm not too sure about that brand - I don't think their chainsaws are that good, to be honest" he said, before recommending a highly respected chap who could service it.

The expert was equally dismissive. "This company knocked out loads of those at a very cheap price," he said. "I could have a look at it, but it's probably not worth repairing."

To add to the mounting evidence of my poor judgement, the tree surgeon who turned up today said the same thing. In fact, he laughed when I told him which chainsaw I'd bought.

So how come so many of these things are sold? Simply, the advertising is good, they make fantastic promises, they say it does everything you need it to do, the product looks good, and it fits a budget.

However, what I own now is something that just sits in its case and really needs to be thrown into a skip (I haven't quite got there yet). People in the know have all said exactly the same thing to me: "Get a Stihl or a Husky." These things are four times the price, yes, but they're ten times the value.

So what has this got to do with corporate change? Simply these four pieces of advice:

  • Resist the temptation to celebrate because you think you have found something that fits your budget and looks like it has "all the bells and whistles".
  • Be questioning of things that are perfectly packaged and marketed - dig beneath the shiny veneer and hype.
  • Be prepared to invest in something that is good and does the job over a long period of time.
  • Look at the niches for quality, not at the mass market, and be prepared to look beyond what everyone else buys.

Let's be honest, anything 'developmental' or 'change' related for organisations is a complex offering. You don't find out what you are getting from the procurement department reading bids or the corporate brochure. Arguably you don't find out either from the ubiquitous beauty parade of potential suppliers. Nor does the lowest cost mean the best value.

Finally, if you are going to do something in your organisation, do it well or not at all.

And if you know anyone who is looking for a second-hand chainsaw, one careful owner, please tell them to get in touch.

Simon Wiltshire

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