Perspectives & Forecasts
We are trapped in an era of escalating change. There is no question that we live in turbulent times. Everything is changing around us. The velocity of change is increasing. Trends, most of which we know something about, are interacting with each other to create fascinating challenges . . . and opportunities.
The past is behind us. Let it go. Concentrate on the present, with a strong focus on what the future holds for you. No company will succeed in the future if it depends on what it learned-and how it operated--in the past. The future will be dramatically different, but manageable.
Forget complacency. Companies (or leaders) who allow themselves to become complacent in any aspect of their work, will find the competition passing them by. And they'll probably discover that shocking truth long after everyone else knows!
Customers won't be compliant anymore. Customers, internal and external, demand quality, service, and value. They won't be quiet and accepting if they don't get what they want. Expect them to make noise, cause problems, and stretch your resources to the limit.
Corporate size no longer equals corporate power. The age of building bigger and bigger to earn powerful positioning is over. "Battleship" companies may look impressive, but they'll lose one opportunity after another to "speed boat" competitors. Success will come from being nimble, agile, creative, and responsive.
People are the power. Technology, just-in-time, clever designs, and aggressive marketing will all have their influence. The secret weapon will be people-power. The wins (profit, position, continuity) will go to the companies with trained, competent, dedicated people.
The labor shortage will intensify. An expanding economy, combined with a drop in the birth rate (a generation ago) will combine with other factors to produce an increasingly severe shortage of qualified workers. Finding replacement workers will be almost as difficult as finding people to fill newly-created positions.
Unprecedented churning in labor marketplace will be disruptive. Workers will move easily from job to job in a flow we used to call "job hopping." The continual shifting will be commonplace. Employers will be caught unaware until they suddenly lose their best people. Customers will be uncomfortable, creating a fragile vulnerability.
Corporate loyalty is dead. No longer can we expect the cradle-to-grave relationship between employer and employee. Relatively few employees will seek such a career, and employers are no longer able to guarantee lifetime employment.
Workers will take control of their own careers. New career designs will emerge as people change jobs and occupations every 2-4 years. Mid-career retirements, also known as sabbaticals, will replace the end-of-career retirement for a large proportion of workers. An increasing number of people will work from home, operating their own business, tele- commuting, or under contract to one or more employers. Geographic distance between employer and worker will become much less important.
Workforce stability will be the competitive edge. In an unsettled, continually shifting world, customers will seek stable, dependable suppliers. They'll look for companies whose employees stay around long enough to know their products, customers, and how to do business. Wise employers will strategically work counter-trend to attract and hold top talent. Living this style will take more resources-commitment, energy, time, involvement, training, and empowerment. The culture, not money, will strengthen the bonds.
Companies of the future will be nuclear. Enlightened employers will shed redundant resources--people, real estate, product lines, systems, hierarchical structures, technology. Companies will be managed by relatively few people, with very few organizational levels, collaborating closely to best utilize all the resources around them to achieve maximum profits. Outsourcing, alliances, contingent work forces, flexible space, and quick response will be components of success.
Silo-smashing can be fun. Effective executives will deliberately and aggressively break down barriers and obstacles to high performance. Emphasis on cross-functional collaboration will generate a seamless structure and system focused on results. Obstacles will be removed so people work together for high productivity and a healthy profitability.
Small business will rule. Larger businesses will be forced to streamline their operations to compete with smaller firms. They'll subdivide into relatively autonomous profit centers, even more so than what we've seen in the recent past. Entrepreneurial attitudes will permeate these smaller businesses, re-kindling and re-energizing the forces for success.
The internet will change the world. More business will be done on-line. Physical barriers that separate us now will evaporate as we are able to communicate globally.
Leadership styles will change. Directive, autocratic managers are dinosaurs. The leaders of tomorrow will be facilitative. Establishing agreed-upon results with their individual performers, they'll provide needed resources, support, and coaching. Essentially, they'll provide targets, tools, and then get out of the way. Part of the leader's role will be to help people reach their full potential, then raise the bar to keep them growing.
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