It seems like senior executives have their corporate engines in neutral. They're idling, occasionally revving the engine a little to excite their employees, frighten their competitors, assuage stockholders, or just flex their muscles. It's time to shift into gear!
Of course, we should recognize that, while a large proportion of companies are in idle--waiting for the elections, Christmas, or a sign from the heavens, some are already shifting through the gears and chugging along. Interestingly, they're keeping quiet (secretive) about the momentum they're building...getting the edge while competitors sleep.
Consultants recount story after story about executive teams that are stalled. Top leaders are not making vital decisions. Their subordinates are tasked to meet again and again with consultants, but the experiences are just more talk, not decisions and engagement. Frustration with inaction is driving many key executives to invest more energy in planning their departure than on making organizational progress. Executive recruiters are confirming this phenomenon on a national, cross-industry basis.
The situation in the corporate world is not dissimilar to Mount St. Helens. There's a lot of heat and energy building under the surface. The signs are increasingly visible. The potential for the volcano to blow is very real, as is the potential for comparable eruptions in the corporate arena. The unrest is hampering productivity and damaging already-fragile morale.
To play on the oft-quoted campaign phrase, "It's the economy, stupid," we would argue "it's the leadership, stupid." Or should we say, "it's the stupid leadership." When senior leaders send clear messages to their people that it's time to shift into gear and get traction, they will increase productivity, profit, and the potential for employee retention. The longer they delay in conveying the traction message, the greater the risk of losing the people who can generate the increased productivity, profit, and workforce stability.
With the assumption that many executives are waiting for the presidential election, believing that the results will somehow influence how they will drive their companies, we could see a significant pick-up in corporate activity in the latter part of 2004 and early 2005. Consultants may be swamped with work, as proposals submitted long ago are finally accepted--with urgency. The competition for consulting support may inflate fees as consulting resources are stretched--particularly in specialized boutique firms. Workforce consultants may be sought-after, as employers scramble to close the barn door while the horses are stampeding out.
We are on the threshold of a fascinating period in corporate history.
The Herman Group is a firm of consulting futurists concentrating on workforce and workplace trends and their implications. Emphasis is placed on employee selection and retention as critical strategies. Included in the firm are researchers, professional speakers, authors, and consultants. The Herman Group is based in Greensboro, NC, with affiliates in Sao Paulo, Melbourne, Hong Kong, and Port Louis, Mauritius. Contact Joyce Gioia-Herman at 336-210-3548 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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