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Diddly Squat

Blair McPherson - Former Director, Author and Blogger
Take a complex business involving a lot of technical knowledge, detailed statistics, and financial breakdowns, throw in endless debates about ethical and sustainable practice and most people become quickly board. Myths, stereotypes and general ignorance go unchallenged. Unless that is you can make it a real life story about a man who knows less than you about the business but is prepared to look a bit of an idiot, as those around him who do understand the business patiently explain things, make fun of his ignorance, and do their best help him implement his next ,”Good idea”.
Despite the expertise at his disposal the good ideas intended to make money and improve efficiency always take a lot more time and effort than anticipated and turn out to be expensive experiments with mixed results. This is a man who has enjoyed considerable success in his previous endeavours, is use to getting his own way, is highly opinionated and doesn’t mind upsetting people.

So far I could be talking about the over enthusiastic new chief executive of any large organisation who arrives with a background in a different business but has lots of ideas for making better use of resources, improving performance and increasing  income. However if I said this individual gets very excited by big, powerful, expensive machinery. Has a gift for generating controversy and as a high profile petrol head would be the last person you would think would be interested in the environment. If you still haven’t guessed who I am talking about then if I say Lamborghini tractor, battles with the local council, and what happens when a t.v. celebrity  opens a farm shop and causes traffic chaos in rural village. I am referring to Jeremy Clarkson as featured in the fly on the wall documentary Clarkson’s Farm on Amazon.

Jeremy Clarkson attempts to modernise and diversify his newly acquired farm illustration many of the issues organisations experience when a new chief executive attempts to do the same.

It’s not a romantic view of farming, it’s not about the harsh life of a hill farmer, it’s not about industrial farming it’s about modern farming as a business, an ethical business in which the farmer does not exploit the land but looks after it. It’s typical of many organisations in that someone brought in to modernise does not necessarily have a background in or professional knowledge of the industry. They do have ideas for improving efficiency and profitability but rely on the expertise around them to make it happen. As is shown in the program the experienced professionals don’t try and stop the changes they identify the barriers and obstacles but then provide guidance and help to over come them. Some ideas work better than others.

The TV series  shows just how difficult it is to diversify , there are those who think you should stick with what you know,  there is the initial capital outlay required for equipment, buildings and stock. There are additional hops to go through to comply with legislation, there is the complex process of applying for funding/grants, there is the challenging process of gaining planning permission in an area of outstanding beauty, and despite creating additional employment and throwing a life line to local small businesses there is local opposition to be won over. All of this taking place under the glare and close scrutiny of the media.

Many organisations will be familiar with some or most of these obstacles to change. From a lack of confidence in a new chief executive with no background in the business, to selling the vision . From tackling extensive bureaucracy seemingly designed to frustration change to securing the funding to resource the changes. From dealing with opposition to the proposals to managing the media. From knowing diddly squat to being very quickly up to speed.

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