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 advises leaders of some of the world’s most admired companies, and he’s dedicated a career to working with CEOs and the leadership teams of hundreds of companies in a range of industries. He’s facilitated more than 200 strategic planning sessions, and he’s delivered more than 500 keynotes and workshops on five continents. His fifth leadership book—How Leaders Decide: A Timeless Guide to Making Tough Choices—examines 52 of history’s greatest triumphs and tragedies and debuted in April as the #1 new historical reference book on Amazon.

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