Most C-level executives find themselves besieged by those with a vested interest in changing things. Often consultants, new hires, academics and others often seem to be proposing change for change’s sake before looking at the reason why existing processes, institutions, traditions and protocols came to be in the first place.
WSJ Columnist Peggy Noonan offers a historical example of the importance of looking at why a practice exists before dismissing it as outdated or ineffective. She looks at a long standing practice of wealthy Englishmen being able to buy command of a British regiment with no military credentials. To us this smacks of an egregious privilege given our traditions of a military run by professional soldiers. But Noonan takes a closer look at the very good reasons that brought this system into being, how it helped an island nation become the most powerful country in the world….and the very good reasons that brought an end to this practice and the rise of the professionally trained military caste the UK knows today. (Hint: Incentives and enlightened self- interest matter).
Her recent two page article “Captaincy,” deserves five minutes of your time. If you’ve got the final say on change in your organization, this is required reading.