How to Anticipate the Need For a Burning Platform

Did you ever hear the story of “the burning platform?” Imagine you’re on a North Sea oil rig that has caught fire. Jumping overboard, something you’d never do under normal circumstances, is now your only chance for survival. Scott D. Anthony uses this story to help readers understand whether and when your company should embark on a transformation effort.

Transforming too early carries its own risks, as Netflix experienced when it prematurely split the company in two and had customers nearly revolt. So, how can you identify the magical moment when there’s sufficient time and degrees of freedom to act? “Two Routes to Resilience” article co-author and Yale School of Management professor Richard Foster suggests four ways to determine whether you should embark on a corporate transformation effort:

  • Scan the periphery
  • Look at profit margin trends
  • Listen to passionate leaders
  • Carefully monitor customer satisfaction ratings

Signs suggesting the looming need for transformation aren’t always obvious, and they are never unmistakable until it’s too late. But picking up on the weak signals and getting the timing right can be the difference between stepping boldly into the future or jumping, panic stricken, from your burning platform into an unforgiving sea, Scott Anthony reminds us.

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