With recent eddys in the world of the finance business, transitions have been even more on everybody’s mind than usual. I was recently entertaining my Sister, visiting from Vancouver. We had already done the main highlights on earlier trips so we took a trip around Manhattan on the Circle Line Ferry. There are a number of points were the architecture or the derelict water front shows the changing priorities of the city and the country over the last one hundred years. The prominent Governor’s Island with a strategic view of the harbour. The emphasis on immigration in the early years of the 20th Century with new arrivals passing the Statue of Liberty and landing at Ellis Island for processing and continuing on to the purpose built train terminus on the New Jersey Shore. The importance of shipping and the role of New York as a trading port now displaced to the container ports such as Newark by the increasing competition for space and the efficiencies of larger ships which operate under their own power and don’t require the support of the tides to dock in estuaries. The warehouses lining the shore in easy access of quays. The closure of manufacturing industries in the many Manhattan and Brooklyn factories now located in cheaper locations many in cheaper labour markets. All of these changes have brought with them wrenching pain for individuals. Abandonment of well honed skills. The break-up of friendships in work teams. Nearly all these transitions occurring at the last minute with organizations clinging valiantly to the familiar until they relented in their final gasps.
It is really the individuals who cling to the familiar though and for natural human reasons. A life has been built around the environment. A life that works in that environment and all these changes require rethinking of attitudes, beliefs expounded and the learning of unfamiliar disrespected view points. We shouldn’t necessary tell people to enjoy these changes as seems to be implied by the ‘Who moved my cheese’ school of management. We wouldn’t however want metal smelting to return to Manhattan or for sailors to be at the whim of wind in their sales but we should instead understand that the transition is painful and that sail boats did have charm and sailors their skills but that unfortunately we are compelled by our competition for capital and thirst for growth to stay ahead of change if we are to have influence in the world.