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The wind of change is always blowing.

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The wind of change is always blowing

The wind of change is always blowing.

Last week, I was in France for business purposes. I had to meet the controller of a subsidiary of the group I am working for, in order to fix some technical reporting problems. This manufactory, producing building material, has to face profitability issues, which means a restructuring process. During a discussion about this restructuring process, the controller said that she found a bit amazing when some bankers are asking plans or forecasts for the five or ten next years. Does it still make cense to have such request in a faster moving environment?

When you have a look to the last five years figures of your business and you compare with the plans you did at that time, sometimes, the two pictures have nothing to do with each other. A lot of financial professional are saying that when the budget of the year is approved by the board of directors, there are already a range of obsolete data. Based on that fact, the question is: Can we still make accurate long terms and accurate plans in a faster moving environment?

I would like to compare this with sailing. I often use this picture as comparison.

A few years ago, I was sailing with some friends. Before each trip, before to head for the open sea, we have a range to tasks to prepare the sailing boat. You process a good maintenance to ensure that everything is running well. You have a look also to the weather forecast in order to know the wind speed and direction, you have a look also to specific maps in order to know the tide times and speeds. All these parameters will determine the way you will follow to reach your destination. When these first preparations are done, you are ready to head for the open sea. As you probably know, you have a range of essential equipments to navigate: a VHF radio, a GPS in order to determine your geographical position, a compass to know the direction you are taking, and maybe also other instruments. In some sailing boats, these instruments are very high-tech, sophisticated.

When all these conditions are met, do you think that everything will happen as expected ? First, despite the fact that you have sophisticated equipment on board, it does not mean that it is not necessary to be able to determine manually your position with a sextant. Equipments breakdowns happen frequently, and in this case, it is useful and essential to have alternative solutions. It is not because you have a text editor with a spelling corrector that you do not have to learn orthography.

Another point is the natural parameters. The different natural parameters regarding weather and tides can change too !  If the wind is stronger, or is changing of direction, you will have to recalculate and determine another way. Specially, if you plan to make a long trip, cross over the Atlantic Ocean or a world tour, it is impossible to forecast a so long travel on an accurate basis.

What I mean by writing this, is that you need to pay attention on an ongoing way. Things will probably not happen as you would expect then. You always need to get alternatives in order to be able to act and not to react ! In business, it is the same. We should always think about alternatives, to think about the issues which could appear, and not to think about then when they are, to have a “plan A” and a “plan B”. This means that we have to be creative, to innovate, to improve the different processes, in order to be ready to face difficult situations.

Does it mean that finally the instruments and tools are useless, in sailing as in business ? Certainly not, but it reminds us that they are only tools helping us to take decisions.

Does it mean also that we should not think on a long term basis as things will not happen as expected ? Certainly not too. We need to fix some long term and global goals. The way to achieve then is done with a range of different steps. Some of these steps will probably be modified according to the circumstances, will need to be reviewed, but these changes could also offer added-value opportunities.

Let us keep in mind that, in business, the wind of change is always blowing. There is no certitude, but to have a goal and the wind of change are two essential components to move things forward and to create new opportunities.


Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

September 20, 2009 at 14:08

Posted in Business

Tagged with , , ,

4 Responses

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  1. That’s a good analogy. It’s not an argument against being prepared. You have to be prepared for anything and everything!

    Change is certainly constant when sailing. Flexibility and adaptability often mean survival.


    September 21, 2009 at 22:16

    • I agree ! It is just a question of mind. Change should be considered as an opportunity, not as a constraint ! Or, it you consider it as constraint, consider it as a positive constraint !

      Eric Saint-Guillain

      September 21, 2009 at 22:25

  2. You can’t control it 100%, I Believe that forecasting is not about the likelihood that things would happen, but rather understanding the driving forces behind, and adapt quickly to it.


    September 27, 2009 at 12:10

    • Indeed ! We have always to understand or try to understand things in order to take appropriate actions.
      Thanks for your comment Mostafa ! 😉

      Eric Saint-Guillain

      September 27, 2009 at 12:50

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