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‘Essential change’ – remain static, kill your business

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‘Sun, sand and sea’ is the usual knee-jerk response from tourists and other visitors when asked about the Caribbean. In the context of branding and marketing, this is perhaps the perfect answer in support of the tourism industry – a crucial economic force of the region. 

The massive and spectacular ships operated by cruise lines are the attention-getters. While the revenue from this group is significant, there have been questions about equity and the distribution of revenue/wealth from the cruise lines to the destinations. This subject has been discussed in previous issues of Caribbean Maritime and is not for this writing. 

However – a thoughtful ‘however’ – it is the ports and terminals, the infrastructural giant and related ancillary services, which support the survival of many national economies. As such, revenues generated by these entities are quite likely retained and subsequently spent within the local economy. And this is good business.


In this column, BridgeView, I muse and write to the captains on the bridge, the executives at the C-level and the managers on the operations floor. While not calling out particular ports, terminals or companies, we try to stay in the mindshare of the maritime trade and its businesses. BridgeView calls for thought-leadership and offers a view of the art and practices of industry leaders. If one listens, BridgeView sounds a call for critical contemplation and for thinking anew, often with a challenge to initiate change. 

I do so quite unashamedly, oftentimes with a not-so-tongue-in-cheek admonition and call for leaders to mount their Bucephalus and gallantly lead the charge for ‘essential change’. Such urgings, reproaches and challenges, motivators all, promote change for growth, profitability, sustainability and success.


Typically, we refer to change as an obscure, ambiguous or abstract challenge in a world of instant happenings, be they episodic (as allegorically titled in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book ‘The Black Swan’), or as actions reactive to the 100-point banner headlines of terrorist attacks, labour strikes or disasters. And we see change as that necessitated to resolve ‘ordinary and usual’ business problems.

However, to grow and move ambitiously forward, our focus needs to shift to change which is critical and essential; not as a palliative bromide indifferently administered to correct redundant ‘problems’; instead, as an antidote to offset the poisonous effects of status quo: read as ‘dead and buried’.

Essential change sustains survival and fosters economic well-being. Recognising such, forward-thinking movers and shakers have mounted their steeds and are leading towards the future.

One such leader, Mark Parker, CEO of Nike, explains: “Business models are not meant to be static. In the world we live in today, you have to adapt and change.” 

Closer to home and in concert with Mr. Parker are the CSA presidents. 

Carlos Urriola: need for ‘higher levels of efficiency’

Grantley Stephenson: challenge to ‘redouble our efforts’. 

Further, Barclays Global Investors Group definitively forewarns: “Today’s markets are as uncertain as ever. But there is one certainty – that the future is coming. It’s no longer enough to simply preserve what you have today; you have to build what you will need for tomorrow. And you can’t wait until tomorrow to do so.” No status quo here. 

Back to Mr. Parker, who explains. “One of my fears is being this big, slow, constipated, bureaucratic company that is happy with its success. That will wind up being your death in the end.” 

The message is clear: there is an immediate and dire need for essential change. 

Over and over

More testimony? Popularly attributed to Albert Einstein: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” 

And as an aphorism: If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to keep getting what we’re getting.

Change is unashamedly about death. In her seminal book ‘On Death and Dying’, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross writes of the five stages of dying: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance (in no specific sequence). No wonder we are reluctant to change. As we go through these stages – and we inevitably will – we find that change is the death of that which was, that which we knew and that with which we were comfortable. Once unburdened of past practices, essential change presents unlimited opportunities.

Once convinced of a need to do things differently and to make essential change, two critical questions come to the fore: do we need to make a change and do we really and truly want to make a change? 

Answering yes to the first question is likely. Answering yes to the second question demands unflinching commitment. Answering yes to both questions creates the next question: where to begin?

The end in mind

Establish a baseline. Precisely, analyse where we are. The next step suggests we ‘begin with the end in mind’ and redefine our value proposition. See Stephen R. Covey’s ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People’. 

Knowing where we are and where we are going leaves only the making of an operations-executions plan, a transformational plan designed for essential change. And the choices? To this end, I offer we look to past issues of Caribbean Maritime, particularly BridgeView. Read: ‘101 Back to Basics’ (CM17); ‘The Janus View’ (CM12); ‘Eleven ways to cope with ‘Future Shock’ in 2012’ (CM15). See also Dr. Fritz Pinnock’s ‘Changing an Organisation’s Culture for Survival’ (CM16). And, in addition to Mr. Covey’s writings, read ‘A Whole New Mind’ by Daniel H. Pink and Gary Hamel’s ‘The Future of Management’.

(Previous issues of Caribbean Maritime are accessible at the CSA’s website,

How essential a change? How much of a gamble? Simply phrased, should we take a chance? The answer: the potency of the Caribbean nations will be manifest only with thoughtful and insightful leadership and with management effectively charting, planning, steering and executing. 

“Take a chance! All life is a chance. The person who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The ‘sure thing’ boat never gets far from shore.” – Dale Carnegie

Joseph Cervenak is Managing Principal of Kemper-Joseph LLC.
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