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Victory tastes so good. Success can be so intoxicating. Winning a tough battle is a feeling unlike any other. However, if misinterpreted, these moments of elation can put us on a path to mediocrity.
The world stops for no one. The fact that we have won a decisive battle or dominate a particular market segment today has little bearing on tomorrow's prospects. There is no basis to assume that what made us successful today will be what makes us successful tomorrow. Today's pace of change is without parallel in history. There is no time to rest. And when markets are not growing change accelerates even faster as everyone competes for the same piece of the pie.
To survive, let alone prosper, in this environment we must continually ask ourselves: What's Next? What is the next great thing? Who is coming after us? Where is the next opportunity? Where are we vulnerable? The world and our competition are constantly nipping at our tails. They want what we want. They react quicker than ever. Markets move faster than ever. Anticipating is harder than ever yet, ironically, more important than ever.
No longer can one area of competence in any organization offset other areas of incompetence if the company plans to survive and prosper. Successful companies of the future must be great in all areas. Wal-Mart found this out when they realized that while their logistics and systems were second to none their marketing and merchandising were tertiary at best. They changed and they grew. This meant changing a culture-not an easy thing to do. Microsoft has been unable to do it. Dell has been unable to do it. GM is working on it. Chrysler is working on it.
The challenge is to not be a one hit wonder when it comes to change. Assuming GM and Chrysler figure out how to be profitable and grow share will their cultural changes allow them to react, respond and, most importantly, anticipate future changes in the marketplace? Or will they just continue doing the same things hoping for improvement? It's not easy building a culture that is comfortable with the "What's Next?" question.
"What's Next?" challenges orthodoxy. It embraces transformation. It kick-starts change. It keeps everyone uncomfortable with today's success. It forces the team to look forward and not backwards. Yes, there are things to learn from the past but they are mostly behavior related. Performance measures, processes, disciplines, structures, systems of the past may no longer be relevant. It takes a dynamic culture to thrive in this environment. Any culture short of this will not maximize its potential and most likely never become high profit.
Enjoy today's victories but only for a moment. And end that moment with the question: What's Next?