Things ain’t what they used to be

I was walking today alongside the ruins of the Wey & Arun canal, which links the river Wey to the river Arun, and used to make it possible to go by river from London to Littlehampton.  However, by 1868, due to competition from the railways it had fallen in to disuse.  Imagine the work it took to excavate 23 miles of canal… and now it is largely just a muddy depression partially overgrown by trees*.

In business and in life, we invest time, effort and ourselves into various projects and ideas, and over time we can feel that they are synonymous with  us.  However, most projects, like the canal have a natural life span and we need to able to walk away from them when they no longer serve us, or when the need can be better met by alternative means.  Just because we have poured ourselves into something is not necessarily a good reason to keep it going once it no longer serves its purpose.  We owe it to ourselves and our stakeholders to challenge even our sacred cows.

What are your sacred cows?


For those of you with a long memory, here is the song that inspired this blog, but be warned it goes back to 1960 and talks about all those new fangled stuff around then…



*  There is an active group who are slowly restoring this lovely piece of history



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3 Responses to “Things ain’t what they used to be”

  1. Stephen Scott says:

    Point well made about moving on. But the canal could also be a metaphor for grand plans which never stood a chance because they didn’t stick culturally. And they didn’t stick culturally because the people-side work to make them stick wasn’t taken seriously enough.

    So you come across the ivy-clad ruins of TQM initiatives, Kaizen or whatever, still visible in a reluctant, least-effort, ritualistic sort of way.

    This is a more melancholic thing to find. At least the Wey & Arun Canal served a useful purpose for nearly 100 years. In the cases I’ve seen, vast effort may have been spent on things which only did any good for a short time if at all. “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings. Look on my Strategic Imperatives, ye mighty, and despair. Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    of that colossal wreck…”.


  2. mmmm… and they usually forget that the key is the people component, without which all that IT, and clever processes deliver nothing

  3. Stephen Scott says:

    The graft often starts after the obvious project/delivery phase is over, but people seem to find it difficult to get that. I get really angry because I’ve sweated blood on things which have been entirely sensible in the circumstances and quite well executed, but I have not been able to persuade the pillocks (forgive me) to do proper benefits-realisation and consolidation work. You get “cutover to live” in some form and everyone runs. This is often despite this point apparently being accepted from an early stage.

    Operation successful, patient dead.

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