By Les McKeown, CEO of Predictable Success
One thing’s for sure: After the tumultuous events surrounding the UK’s recent vote to leave the European Union, anyone who claims to know what’s going to happen next is deluding themselves.
And given that at least four of the UK’s most senior political leaders effectively ended their careers by reading the ‘Leave/Remain’ runes incorrectly, I’m not going to pretend to possess a second sight they didn’t.
One unavoidable pattern the Predictable Success model does show us, however, is this: most every massive, complicated, aging entity (of which the European Union is certainly a paramount example) will eventually fall into a stage of its existence which we call The Big Rut.
From the outside, it’s easy to see when any organization (commercial or not – the principle applies to any entity consisting of people trying to achieve common goals) has hit The Big Rut. There is an emphasis of form over content. Decision making is incredibly bureaucratic. Innovation has all but disappeared. Flexibility and nimbleness are forever gone. Customers (clients, voters) are frankly a pain in the neck. The institution, in other words, exists primarily to maintain its own existence – not to meet the needs of its original stakeholders.
The problem for this slowly dying, heading-for-irrelevancy institution is that from the inside all of this is almost impossible to see, let alone change. The people who work in institutions in The Big Rut usually like it like that – they want (need) to work in a comfort zone, in a bureaucracy, and to them, even at the most senior level, nothing is wrong internally – any problems are the fault of the customer (or client, or voter).
Here’s the ‘what happens next’ part: Because of this inability to internally self-diagnose, there is no way out of The Big Rut, short of massive external impact. At the national and global level, these sort of rearrangements were usually fomented by war (think of the rise and fall of empires in history and the re-drawing of the geo-political map after major conflicts).
In the case of the European Union, war(s) may play a part in its ultimate redesign (the war in Syria and the resulting impact on European migration is one example), but the main driver for institutional reform will come from increasing and wider-scale breakup.
In other words, watch for more votes to leave from peripheral countries, increasingly isolating Germany and France as the EU standard-bearers.
Oh, and that pattern of massive external forces causing the breakup of an aging entity in The Big Rut into smaller, competing parts? You might want to watch this space.