Any leader who hopes to take an organization forward really does need an understanding of its past. History matters to group culture, identity and motivation. In times of crisis, a proud tradition can be summoned up to reinforce employees’ dedication.
In the late 1990s, UPS executives realized that the company’s model wasn’t working. To explain large-scale innovations, they turned to breakthroughs of the past: from bicycle deliveries to trucks, from ground service to air freight, from paper tracking to a web-based system.
“Yes, it’s new and it’s different and it’s tough and it’s a change,” then-CEO Jim Kelly said over and over. “But that’s OK. We’ve done that successfully for many years.”
— Adapted from “Your Company’s History as a Leadership Tool,” John Seaman Jr. and George David Smith, Harvard Business Review.
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