Book Review - The Second Cycle - Winning the War Against Bureaucracy by Lars Kolind
I've always been fascinated about how leading-edge companies lose their focus and turn into lumbering dinosaurs. Lars Kolind tackles that subject in The Second Cycle: Winning the War Against Bureaucracy. The information he covers is practical and geared to get you back on track (or keep you from going down that road in the first place).
Contents: The First Cycle - Why Success Breeds Failure; The Second Cycle - A New Paradigm; Meaning; Partnership; From Hierarchy To Collaboration; Leadership; The Toolbox; Three Live Case Studies; Conclusion; How Oticon Entered The Second Cycle; Index
Kolind was responsible for taking Oticon, a market-leading hearing aid manufacturer which had stumbled badly, and turning them back around to lead the industry once again. He uses the Oticon experience as a real-life case study about what happens to put a company into a bureaucracy-bound death spiral. When companies are successful, they tend to get protective and attached to the product and processes that got them there. Arrogance and waste also enter the picture, and the company view of the industry becomes very self-centered. Success breeds the "we know best" attitude, and pretty soon the reality of the marketplace does not match the reality the company thinks it sees. This starts the downhill cycle, and it doesn't take long to destroy what was built up over many years or decades. Kolind makes the case that a new form of innovation is needed to return the company to its creative roots and cut through the ingrained bureaucracy that takes hold over time. The "toolbox" chapter looks at a number of indexes and processes he used to determine where the company is at in the first cycle, as well as the steps to take to drop the "same old, same old" patterns and replace them with ones that foster the innovation and collaboration needed to compete in today's market.
The book is grounded in practicality, not lofty sounding platitudes. The tools he created and used are not part of some "master system", but ideas and concepts you can take and adapt for your own specific situation. Because it's not a "step 1-2-3" system, each tool doesn't necessarily build on the one prior to it. But it's not very difficult to figure out which one(s) would be more applicable to a specific situation. There's no magic wand, and it's definitely easier to halt a slide when it first starts, instead of once it gets to rock-bottom. But diligent application of Kolind's ideas can make a forceful impact on your company's future.