Note: this is an OLD column–originally posted in 2004. Two weeks ago, I had coffee with a former client and he told me that THIS column “continues to make me think.” There is no greater compliment for a writer than the knowledge that something you wrote provides lasting value for a reader. His kind words encouraged me to reprise a seven-year column here at the end of 2012.

May I (re)Introduce “Thing One” and “Thing Two”

Two of my clients are approaching change in their organizations from distinctly different perspectives and I think a short discussion of each situation might provide some food for thought to anyone contemplating a shift in their status quo.
Both clients provide goods and services to the business community – their business models involve B2B relationships. Both have been serving their specific industry for more than 10 years with good people and valuable products.
Client A is solidly positioned in their industry, but demand for their primary service has been declining. They are well known and their product has been successful, but it’s outdated. My assignment in this case is to help the company explore new product ideas that will bring them back to the top in their industry.
Client B has a great product that has just about run it’s course in the industry for which it was designed. Opportunities for new revenue sources within the original industry are all but dried up and my work with them has involved development of opportunities in new industries.
Each is approaching change from a dissimilar direction:
Client A will succeed by finding new things to do in the same industry.
Client B will succeed by finding new opportunities for an existing product.
So?[blockquote align=”center”]When facing a need for change – you can either do different things or you can do things differently. [/blockquote] (Read that again, slowly)
This is a subtle but important distinction. Early in any change scenario your leaders should ask – “Do we need to do different things or do things differently?”
Getting the right answer – early on – will be the key to a successful change process.

  • At your next management meeting take a look at organizations you know who have successfully navigated a significant change and determine whether the change involved doing different things or doing things differently.
  • Then – find a situation or issue in your organization that needs to be changed (it doesn’t need to be a big problem) and ask which approach would bring about the desired result.

Do we need to do something differently or do a different thing?
Let me know how it goes –