The statements about change and what’s normal continue to evolve, but how we respond is what’s most important. 

What was the first statement you heard about change?  The first I remember was this:  The more things change, the more they seem to remain the same.  Or maybe it was this, Just when I’m getting use to the change, everything seems to change all over again.

Now we seem to be hearing more about the New Normal.  I thought I’d review what our clients had been saying, but more importantly, what our clients and thought leaders are saying about how to best respond. 

The New Normal.  We have yet another label to use to describe our current situation. While I tire of jargon and language that does nothing to sustain your path to leadership significance; this is different.   Many have different ideas on what has happened but most agree we have gone through structural change, we are not headed back anytime soon, and the way that we lead our organizations going forward is absolutely essential.


In a recent research study of CEO’s, sponsored by IBM Corporation, Samuel J. Palmisano; Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer made the following comment.  

 Events, threats and opportunities aren’t just coming at us faster or with less predictability; they are converging and influencing each other to create entirely unique situations.  These first-of-their-kind developments require unprecedented degrees of creativity – which has become a more important leadership quality than attributes like management discipline, rigor, or operational acumen.”

Whether a non-profit of 8 people, or a CEO or a large enterprise, I have no doubt you have feel it, get it, and know the world in which you operate with customers and stakeholders has changed dramatically.  Here are several of the recommendations I find greatest merit in from the recent studies I have read. 

·        The new normal will be shaped by a confluence of powerful forces—some arising directly from the financial crisis and some that were at work long before it began. Through it all, technological innovation will continue, and the value of increasing human knowledge will remain undiminished.




·         The most successful organizations co-create products and services with customers, and integrate customers into core processes.  They are adopting new channels to engage and stay in tune with customers.  By drawing more insight from the available data, successful CEOs make customer intimacy their number-one priority.


·         Better performers manage complexity on behalf of their organizations, customers and partners. They do so by simplifying operations and products, and increasing dexterity to change the way they work, access resources and enter markets around the world.


·        Driving efficiency and effectiveness in people is critically important to achieving competitive advantage and generating shareholder value.   An integrated approach to workforce and talent management generates tangible results, as people are one of the largest assets and expenses in organizations.


·         In today’s tough and fast-changing environment, CEOs must help their top leaders to work through fear and denial and to learn new rules.  But what should they do when their strongest executives seem unable to play a new game? The costs—organizational drift, missed opportunities, unaddressed threats—are so big that it’s tempting to replace leaders who are suffering from paralysis. But this is a mistake when, as is often the case, these executives possess valuable assets, such as superior market knowledge, relationships, and organizational savvy, that are difficult to replace.


·         To survive and thrive, every organization will need to turn itself into a change agent.  This requires the organized abandonment of things that have shown to be unsuccessful, and the organized and continuous improvement of every product, service and process within the enterprise.   The point of becoming a change agent is that it changes the mindset of the organization.


·         Companies can’t predict the future, but they can build organizations that will survive and flourish under any potential future.  The specifics for how companies will go about developing new muscles with vary, but the following core principles will make time an ally, rather than a challenge:  focus on pivotal roles, lean by doing, increase use of adult learning principles, measure new performance metrics, use just-in-time decision-making, reduce risk by breaking big decisions down, re-think organizational budgeting processes, and surface critical issues.


Clearly, arguing about which consultant or method to use is not the critical issue.  With structural change comes a need to fundamentally change the way we manage and lead our businesses.  It’s time to stop cutting and begin re-building the new.

Research Sources:


1.       Capitalizing on Complexity:  Insights from the Global Chief Executive Officer Study, IBM Corporation, 2010.

2.       Winning in the New Normal:  Adaptive Case Management Strategies to Deal with Business as it Happens, Global 360, Deb Miller & Tom Sheperd, 2010.

3.       Dynamic Management:  Better Decision in Uncertain Times, McKinsey & Company, Lowell Bryan, 2009.

4.       The New Normal, McKinsey, Ian Davis, 2009.

5.       Talent Management & The New Normal, Human Capital Institute, 2009.

6.       A CEO’s Guide to Re-energizing the Senior Team, McKinsey & Company, Derek Dean, 2009.

7.       Thrive:  State of the Region Summit,, J. Mac Holladay, 2010.   Quote from Peter Drucker, The Economist, 2009.