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25th Anniversary series: 2012 – Here be Dragons

May 27, 2015

While there have always been unknown, uncharted waters facing our organisations, the perils in the waters around us Untitlednow seem to be much more dangerous than ever before. The title of our book[i] published in 2012, Here be Dragons, comes from the map on our cover. Once there was the known world and beyond that was the unknown world – where mysterious and strange creatures such as dragons dwelt, ready to pounce upon unwary travellers. The map on our cover comprises the known world and reflects that beyond this is the unknown, the dragons.

While we understand that there is no one-size-fits-all answer on how to respond and navigate these times, since all organisations are different, our book helps the reader face the unknown.

Here be Dragons was written in response to requests from readers of Beyond Crisis (John Wiley, 2010), in which we first proposed the model “Cycle of Renewal”. Readers wanted to know what the Cycle of Renewal looked like “on the ground”; how would you get started; how would you decide which tools to use; who would do the work; what would it look like on a daily basis; and, most importantly, what impact would you see on long-term business performance?

Thus Here be Dragons was conceived. It is in fact two books for the price of one: the story of the Columbus Project and the Pilot‘s Guide.

The Columbus Project describes the journey taken by a fictional organisation (FutureParts Vehicle Supplies) which was set the challenge of renewing itself. The story describes how it approaches the challenge. The staff of FutureParts are entirely fictional, but they represent some of the characters and organisational structures that form the context for change in many organisations. Their journey is also fictional. There are many ways of achieving renewal. The story aims to illustrate some of the common hurdles and tools, so that business leaders may recognise some of the characteristics of what works and what does not as they spearhead organisational change.

The Columbus Project story does not claim to be a major literary work, but we hope it serves its purpose.

The Columbus Project leads naturally into the second part of the book. This is a Pilot‘s Guide to the tools which the FutureParts change project used to help the business renew itself. The tools are all designed to enhance the ability to think long term while being effective in the short term – balancing the paradoxes leaders face on a daily basis.

Both the Columbus Project and the Pilot‘s Guide have a pragmatic focus: why to use each tool, when it should be used (and when not) and how to use it, along with the results to expect and how each fits into the Cycle of Renewal. Unusually there is an Annex in the middle of the book. Entitled “The Project Office Wall”, this is an additional part of the Columbus Project story: it presents examples of specific tools in action, and refers to documents produced by the fictional FutureParts characters.

Both parts of Here be Dragons stand alone and can be read without reference to the other. However, the Pilot‘s Guide follows the same sequence of activities as the FutureParts journey. So if you want more information about a particular tool mentioned in The Columbus Project you will find it in the corresponding chapter in the second part. Alternatively, if you are reading the Pilot‘s Guide, and would like to see how a particular tool might work “on the ground”, you will find a description in the corresponding chapter in the Columbus Project.

[i] Ringland, Gill and Patricia Lustig, with Martin Duckworth, Rob Phaal and Chris Yapp, “Here be Dragons: Navigating in an Uncertain World, Choir Press, 2012, ISBN 0956219055.

Written by SAMI Director, Gill Ringland.

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