Surgery, Anyone?

April 16th, 2013  | 

Published in Organization Health, Problem Solving

Sunday, April 21, would’ve been the 100th birthday of Lord Richard Beeching.


The Beatles considered retaining Lord Beeching when they sought a business affairs manager to untangle the mess of their company Apple Corps.

But it was Beeching’s role as the first Chairman of the British Railways Board that earned him his place in history. He was tasked with finding a solution to the UK’s unprofitable rail system in the 1960s. His recommendation to cut one-third of the country’s rail lines along with 70,000 jobs over a three-year period was, as you would expect, controversial.

His program of cuts was called the Beeching Axe.

Beeching took another view: “I suppose I’ll always be looked upon as the axe man, but it was surgery.”

When I lead strategic planning sessions, there’s always a lot of enthusiasm about new programs and activities.

The question I always ask is, “What current activities are you removing?”

About the Author: Greg Bustin is an executive coach, consultant and speaker who has delivered more than 500 keynotes and workshops on five continents. Greg advises leaders at some of the world’s most admired companies, and his views about leadership have been published in The Wall Street Journal, Chief Executive, Fast Company, Forbes, Inc., Investor’s Business Daily, Leader to Leader, and other major publications. He’s written five leadership books. His newest book, How Leaders Decide: A Timeless Guide to Making Tough Choices (Sourcebooks), examines decision-making in history’s greatest triumphs and tragedies. How Leaders Decide

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