Apply the Handy Curves: Remain Relevant Through Resilience and Renewal

As leaders of organizations, we need to grow our people, processes, and products to remain relevant to our market, customers, and stakeholders. Our leadership must have vision, resilience and renewal to innovate to new market relevance.

Think of those companies who have ridden the wave of supposed success only to see their business and company move into decline and irrelevance: Kodak, Xerox, Yahoo, Nokia, Blackberry and Myspace to name a few.

A few companies who have mastered renewal through vision, resilience to innovate include two trillion dollar companies named Microsoft and Apple, and locally, DBS Bank and the Buick brand in China.

Resilience and Renewal can prevent decline whether it is your organization, your people, or even yourself if you understand and work through the Handy Curves, or sometimes called Sigmoid Curves. I recently moved countries to restructure my business but had to also apply the Handy Curves to all aspects and habits of my life: exercise routine, grocery shopping, finding new friends, and the culture of relationships in this new country. In my business, I needed to restart my learning hunger, master the changes in my market and “upload” new processes and technologies to compete. Otherwise, my company, and myself will decline to irrelevance through slow death!

Gary Stokes, the author of Poised: A Warrior’s Guide says,  “The Sigmoid (Handy) curve is the ancient “s” curve of life.  At the beginning of the life curve, things are often difficult and dangerous because the initial effort to create something often faces severe hurdles, can’t get going, and dies.  But if life survives the initial challenges, things may get better and better; until they hit a very successful point (A).  Eventually, however, everything peaks out and goes into a decline that cannot be reversed.  We have reached point (B) and it’s over except for the crying and regret.”

People and corporations often fail to notice that they are at point A and refuse to change thinking their recipe for success will continue forever. Little do they know that their success has peaked and it time for a new urgent vision, resilience to work through change for market or personal relevance, and eventually emerge a winner. 

Charles Handy, the famous organizational consultant,  that most organizations are blind to point A, fail to renew, and then go into inevitable decline.

I believe that the Handy curves are even more important in today’s fast changing marketplace where product and career renewal to relevance is even shorter, requiring renewal more often.

Leading change from Point A to avoid Point B is difficult and takes leaders who have vision for future relevance and can inspire people in their organization to act on and deliver on the tangible success of their new future. Satya Narayana Nadella the CEO of Microsoft is the best recent example of a CEO that has done this successfully. Read this article how he did it for Microsoft from INC. Magazine.

I have observed Satya employed the Handy Curves and moved Microsoft through a period of doubt, change, and stress (as seen between Point A and B) in the Handy Curve Diagram. His focus of change was different than his predecessor, because Satya focused on changing people to accept, support and deliver on the new Microsoft vision of success.


Changing people’s attitude and competence can be the most difficult job a leader has moving the organization to a new relevance. In fact, in many cases the CEO must be removed as he or she can be the main blockage to change.

As a trainer and productivity consultant, I have seen many corporations try to employ training as the vehicle to get people to move to the new paradigm needed for companies to remain competitive. Many training initiatives fail to achieve this objective. I have adapted a modified Handy Curve diagram from Dartner to illustrate how training can support changing people.

My experience has shown that most companies fail at employing training to support change for two main reasons:

Inflated Expectations of Training 

Absence of Reinforcement and Coaching

Solve minimize these two barriers, managers and their trainers must

First,  clearly define realistic training objectives that view training as a process, not an event. We all know a two day training program will not turn sales people into “instant Zig Ziglars” or managers into “Influential John Maxwells.” Training initiatives must have KPI’s beyond the classroom or computer screen.

Second, training people to change takes resilience by their manager and boss. This is hard work as it can lead to a short term loss of productivity and revenue. Why? Managers need to reinforce and coach the new competencies and processes for training to stick. Just like in learning a sport well, we need good consistent coaching to be motivated to resilience to win the match, the game or the tournament.

Take a look at your organization, your teams, your products and determine where are they on the Handy Curve. What vision do you need as a leader to keep your company vision relevant with resilience to move to new levels of success?

Take a look at how you employ training in your company to support people’s resilience to change. Is it event driven, check the box driven, budget driven or process based? How does your organization’s training employ reinforcement and coaching to achieve and maintain market relevance.

Enjoy Your Week by Applying Handy Curves to Your Life!


Michael J Griffin

ELAvate Founder

John Maxwell Team Founder

AchieveForum Master Trainer


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