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  • Changing successfully

    29/01/2015 | Zaltbommel


    As a sail fan, I think it’s fantastic that Schouten Global sponsors the Dutch Team Brunel at the Volvo Ocean Race. But the analogy between trade and businesses and sailing also intrigues me. Like in a sail race, companies have to beat up against the wind and make changes in order to prevent itself from staying behind. Analyzing the context, communicating and staying comprehensible, that’s what it is all about to change successfully.

    Analyzing the context
    Through the Volvo Ocean Race app I do follow the position of the boats accurately. I notice that after every update course, which the teams also can see of each other, changes have been made. So, the teams watch very closely what the others are doing and adapt their course and strategy constantly to that. That’s smart, because anyone who is rigidly hanging on to a chosen strategy and doesn’t pay attention to the fact that your competitor has already tacked for three times, risks missing the boat. That’s what happened to Kodak when digital photography all of a sudden became a hype.
    Analyzing all available data accurately will give valuable information. During the race, the crew works with a watch system in which they are on and off for four hours and every two hours the compilation on deck changes. In order to track down where improvement could be made, Team Brunel matched all the boat data from the first leg with the data from the watch system in order to create the most successful combination of sailors. And because these guys really put everything into their mutual team goal, there is no discussion about it either. I admit, in large companies this is more difficult because you have to deal with numerous goals and several interests. But, when you manage to put everything and everyone at the service of the mutual goal, you will reach that goal at the fastest. In companies, analyzing and combining data happens to little, but is rapidly in attendance. Also within our learning pathways. The University of Maastricht, for instance, researched if there are behavioral changes in online learning blogs when there’s different linguistic usage. It seems to be that way. Managers who, because of the learning pathway, were more conscious about their task, used more sentences that are coaching, which indicates a great job maturity.

    Confusion paralyzes
    So, based on analyses you constantly have to adjust and respond to changing circumstances. You have to beat up against the wind continuously and optimize the usage of the wind and the flow. But when you’re changing course too often, you’re risking your crew to get confused or – metaphorically speaking - go overboard. People aren’t really in favor of changes anyway, but if they don’t understand (anymore) where things are leading up to, insecurity will increase and they will cramp. In the video, in which Team Vestas Wind crashes to a reef at Mauritius, in a brief moment you can see that happening. After the first hit, there is confusion and a brief moment of not acting at all. 


    Nicole T 06-03-2013 025 bew uitsnede.jpg

    Profile: Nicole Timmermans

    Nicole Timmermans (1966) studied Clinical Psychology and is working in the field of Corporate Learning and Training & Development since 1995. Since 2008 she is part of the management board at Schouten & Nelissen, the Dutch agency of Schouten Global, in which she’s responsible for InCompany learning pathways, sales and Human Resource (HR).
    She loves to sail and during summer she is most likely to be found on the water, nearby her house or on a (sailing) trip to Zeeland, IJsselmeer or the Friese meren.

    In companies the same thing happens. Confusion and uncertainty in organizations can be noticed by the talks at the coffee machine, reducing enthusiasm, and because they are looking for security, people will go to their boss for approval (read: reassurance) more often. They have little self confidence and don’t dare taking any decisions anymore or to go through with it, while this is exactly what you need to do when times are changing.

    Staying understandable
    For every leader the biggest challenge is to balance between responding really quickly to the changing circumstances and nevertheless stay comprehensible. Making clear choices and making sure that you communicate every course change correctly so people will understand where you want to go to. As a leader you have to be a steady, trustworthy factor, just like Bouwe Bekking is. Whenever he sleeps, his crew knows exactly what he would do. It’s important to make sure that secrets don’t last very long, so insecurity that might be felt, will endure as shortly as possible. People will feel that something is going on anyway. During a project change you can’t escape from a little loss of stability. The only way to create stability as fast as possible is to set new, clear goals, communicate about it, explain in a comprehensible way what you’re doing and go right through with it. If you don’t, anxiety and insecurity will strike. And people can handle a lot, except long term insecurity. It can paralyze your organization completely.

    Mutual new goal
    Sometimes your goal gets out of reach because of unexpected setbacks. In that case, it’s important not to keep hanging onto the past but to make new choices which you certainly can influence. Team Vestas Wind has done that fabulously. Once they were confronted with the fact that they couldn’t get off of that reef, every time they set new, synoptic goals and went for those full force. From getting from board safely together, getting everything from board in order to save the environment, to getting the boat right out of there. And now they are doing their upmost to make their reappearance at the start in Lissabon. The crew constantly understood what the new goal was and kept on acting. It all has to do with leadership and staying comprehensible during changing circumstances.

    Check also our Schouten Global website for more information about our course: "Problem solving and decision making"

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