Best Practices in Management: Rethinking Strategy
The New Strategic NormalBy Bruce Griffiths and Bob Power
This month, the featured article in The Navigator is the last in our three-part series on Best Practices in Management: Rethinking Strategy. In this edition we're going to focus on "The New Strategic Normal." Last issue's installment, "Ideas and Execution", explored the importance of both generating ideas and executing the strategy.
Any legitimate strategic planning process includes a scan to look at all external issues that will likely have an impact on the organization. As we look at the strategic concerns that define the "new normal" for all strategic leaders, let's remember that each of these is both a threat and an opportunity.
Global resource challenges (e.g., water, oil, and regulatory oversight to ensure green operations) will have a growing impact. It is inescapable: We're facing ecological challenges that demand more sustainable systems.
Some organizations have embraced this shift. GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt has coined the catch phrase "green is green" to present sustainability as a business opportunity. Some still resist, but the trend is inexorable. Leaders need to consider implementing green vehicle fleets, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)- certified buildings (as Life EMS in Kalamazoo, Michigan recently did), and similar sustainable systems.
In the U.S., we face dramatic shifts in the work force as Boomers age and retire and Echo Boomers (aka Millennials) replace them - with a different mind-set. In Europe and Japan, shrinking populations threaten growth and argue for more liberal immigration policies. The emerging economies of India and China face one-child policies, education challenges and growing socio-economic rifts that shape the labor pool.
Leaders must adjust to new labor sources or new work alternatives (e.g., job-sharing, telecommuting, etc. - though this obviously applies to office, rather than field staff). In the U.S., the 80 million Millennials entering the work force have different expectations regarding education and global awareness, an altered (some might argue reduced) trust in institutions and a priority of people over possessions. Leaders must change how their organizations engage and motivate these new members. Classic top-down leadership styles and organizational designs must be re-examined and reworked.
We live in a constant stream of new devices and changing web technologies that touch every facet of our lives. This means organizations must stay current to stay productive.
This democratization of information, instant access to others through smart devices, social networking, and rapidly evolving technologies all demand a constant global and technical perspective from leaders. For example, if Twitter is the new CNN, how will public safety organizations leverage this reality? How do leaders take advantage of social networks for funding, recruiting, and public service announcements?
As New York Times correspondent Thomas Friedman notes, the world is flat - and it's information and communications technology that leveled it!
Whether you work in the public or private sector, the shrinking world transports products, people, and problems more easily and quickly than at any other time in recorded history. This accelerating transnational exchange has implications not just for commerce (e.g., labor, supply chain, emerging markets, etc.) but a host of other issues, including health and disease, culture clashes and innovation diffusion. Leaders must be alert beyond their borders to stay informed and relevant.
Shrinking Public Resources/Balanced Budget Imperatives
Especially in North America and the European Union, the funds available for public use will shrink as the tax base gets smaller. Even public safety programs will face cutbacks. While it remains to be seen if the great recession of 2008/2009 has resulted in a lasting re-set of consumer habits, it is clear that the resulting deficits have had a profound impact on the communal psyche. A growing distrust of government, together with a need to trim deficits and balance budgets, will make funding for all public entities more challenging going forward. Being more operationally efficient and more creative in funding will be daily imperatives. This new economic reality will also demand more collaboration and creativity in defining an ddelivering services.
The Chinese saying, "May you live in interesting times" is seen as a blessing or a curse. The best leaders will see these strategic issues as opportunities and be thankful they live in very interesting times!