ADAPT, even out of a winning formula, or you will lose.
That’s the crux of the All Black ‘go for the gap’ culture. It’s built off the Japanese principle of Kaizen, which is the total organisational commitment to continuous improvement; a philosophy not so much constantly dissatisfied as it’s driven to improve out of scientific curiosity.
Innovation that seeks to reinvent what’s successful — in its very day of success — is the utilisation of a leader’s core competency; to constantly reinvent. “The role of the leader is to know when to reinvent, and how to do it.” (Underlining mine.)
The leader has a role to change things, even when they don’t appear they need to change. The leader imagines the need to change is ever present; the fabric of the environment.
Indeed, the leader knows where they need to shift things by identifying the gap and going for it. Change and adaptation is assumed. And the real skill is knowing what, when to change, and how to do it.
Adapt, while you’re succeeding. Innovate even when success is still coming easy. For when success begins to wane, it’s too late to adapt in keeping the success fluid. Success must be re-established first.
For the All Blacks it’s not enough to just keep succeeding. It’s better and therefore appropriate to go for the inevitable gap that shows itself even in success — those things we ‘got away with’ tonight that we may not get away with tomorrow morning.
So there’s a reason why it’s harder to stay on top than get there in the first place. Being on top breeds either fear or complacency or a warped combination of both. It’s better to continue to embrace change, going for the gaps that are all too easy to see if we’re intentional, if we’re truly hopeful of remaining at the top of our game.
So far as personal application is concerned, here it is: we have a good component of our lives, or something that works in our day. It’s crucial that we know how to replicate that good thing. And still it’s better by far to be inspired to improve what is good and make it even better.
The personal application of ineffaceable truth is this: there is no standing still in life. There is only forwards or backwards. Refusing to move forward is the complacency of settling for one fleeting machination of success.
What was successful yesterday, is tedious today, and is redundant tomorrow. Leadership is not about yesterday; it’s all about today and tomorrow.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.
This article continues a series on the James Kerr book, Legacy: What the All Blacks Can Teach Us About the Business of Life. This book is what total quality management was in the 1990s in today’s economy of leadership and best practice culture.