Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Business Transformation - Analogies from the World of Nature

As I have worked over the years transforming organizations, I cannot but help but draw analogies with the World of Nature :

1. The Hibernators : These organizations have a penchant for cycles of accumulating fat and then trimming it down. Almost like polar bears or other animals of cold climes. Much of this comes about from the cyclical trend of the business they operate in. I once worked in a company where this trend was driven by the cyclical supply of milk- the key ingredient of their final product. All winter it built up stocks of intermediates, added manpower. Only to trim it all during the harsh Indian summers when the milk supply dried down.

2. The Chameleons : Nothing intrinsically changes about these organizations as they supposedly "transform". An appearance of change is created to satisfy stakeholders like banks, shareholders, media etc. Many of the family owned public companies in India in the 80's and 90's used to fall in this category. The internal processes and structure of the company remained unchanged fixated on the mindset of the owner but the external portrayal constantly changed to suit the environment.

3. The Butterflies/Silkworms: Many organizations grow fat as they are inefficient utilisers of resources which are available aplenty since these companies are generally market doyens or operate in a protected environment. Latest trend is for them to go into a transformative pupa stage away from the prying eyes of external stakeholders under private ownership. The objective being that they after transformation will emerge from their cocoons as attractive butterflies, the cynosure of all eyes, worthy of great premiums. Many will not reach this stage as the private equity investor may decide to harvest the silk from the pupa rather than waiting for the butterfly to emerge. Needless to add the company itself would be killed and the value (silk) extracted by sale of brands, patents, equipment etc.

Any other analogies come to mind ?


Ashwani said...

How about Sloths?

pmurray said...


J a G z said...

Some are Dodos- they will not change when its time for an overhaul. They exhibit huge inertia to change, transformation is not their cup of tea. They would eventually get lost but sadly even the industries living or thriving on these dodos are also lost ( like the Dodo tree).

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