Monday, August 30, 2010

Preparing for Fiscal Year 2012

THEME: Some Thoughts On Current and Emerging Trends

FOCUS: Preparing for Fiscal Year 2012

Monday morning: August 30, 2010

Dear friends,

In the non-profit world, alarm bells are ringing all over the country. Executive Directors and their teams are seriously worried about the impending dangers of Fiscal Year 2012 which starts on 7/1/11. As they all know, when the recession hit the country starting in September 2008, the tax income dropped off dramatically. When this happened, state budgets were in serious trouble and not able to cover basic service delivery commitments. Therefore, the federal government generated stimulus dollars which in part offered a brief relief to these traumatized state budgets.

Nevertheless, the stimulus dollars are going to be used up soon. Then, the states will have to deal with problems that have continued to persist. According to the June 28, 2010 issue of Time magazine, David Von Drehle reports in his article called “The Other Financial Crisis” that Iowa, for example, will have a 18.6% shortfall next year as a percentage of this year’s state budget. While the best non-profits are actively working quite hard to prepare for the difficult 2-3 years ahead as the states recover from the recession and see tax revenues rise, they also know that the future will not be an easy road to travel.

On the state side of this picture, they are doing just about everything that can to shrink the budget and still operate. One state level solution begins with offering extensive early retirement packages in order to reduce the head count within government. While I recognize that this action will, over time, save the bottom line, I think we need to recognize today that those who are leaving take with them knowledge and experience that has been critical to short and long term success within their respective departments or areas of expertise. Any time there is a loss of knowledge and experience at this level, there is the potential for a decline in the quality of the service delivered and the ability to solve problems within and between different divisions in a timely manner.

Furthermore, when we create a work world where the “long time” employees have barely 5-10 years of experience, we must come to recognize that knowledge acquisition and retention are very critical to success. Remembering that our past choices often lead us to our current challenges, and those who do not remember the past often repeat the mistakes of the past, our work as senior executives will be difficult over the next 18 months.

First, given what could be coming, make sure you have the right people on the right seats on the bus, using a Jim Collin’s metaphor. You will need a strong team to handle these challenges.

Second, examine closely the implications and impact of Fiscal Year 2012 within your circle of influence and/or organization. Generate a plan so people stay focused on the right things.

Third, create a team of people who will work to make sure that as people retire the best of their knowledge and experience is not lost.

Fourth, generate clarity of purpose and focus within your organization about what must be preserved at all costs for short and long term success, and what may be discarded or laid aside until current challenges have passed.

In a time period of great worry, it is important to build a network of healthy relationships. As a bone cancer survivor told me many years ago, “make friends before you need them.” This week, prepare thoughtfully and carefully for the coming fiscal year.

Have a grand week,


P.S. Here is some interesting information I learned recently about the non-profit world. According to Guide Star, the nonprofit industry accounts for 5% of the nation's entire GDP. The nonprofit sector overall employs 12.9 million people, or nearly 10 percent of the workforce (larger than the finance, insurance, and real-estate sectors combined). There are more than 1.9 million tax-exempt organizations in the U.S., a number that has doubled in the last 30 years.

Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Transformation of Energy

THEME: Some Thoughts On Current and Emerging Trends

FOCUS: The Transformation of Energy

Monday morning: August 23, 2010

Dear friends,

Over the years, I have worked with a number of clients in the energy generation, transmission, and conservation business. First, let it be known that these are good men and woman who are smart, thoughtful and level headed. Every day, they face difficult challenges and handle complex questions. They meet these difficulties and solve these situations with good problem-solving skills. Putting BP’s Gulf coast challenges to the side for the moment, I am convinced that the majority of people working in this industry do know what needs to be done and do want to do things right the first time.

However, due to BP’s actions in the Gulf coast and other issues that were surfacing before this disaster took place, energy use is now clearly on the front burner of hot topics to be fixed. The difficulty is around the word “fixed.” By definition and implication, the word “fix” assumes that there is a single permanent solution which will solve a problem and restore order or normalcy. Our challenge is that there is not a single permanent solution to energy use in the United States.

For example, there is a rising tide to eliminate coal in the United States. Many say natural gas is the solution. Currently, it does not appear that we have the transmission system to handle the potential volume of natural gas that would be needed to replace coal based generation.

Next, we have the continued rise of electric cars, e.g. the Chevy Volt, and mixed use cars such as the Prius. The public does not like the expense of fossil fuels, the dangers of off-shore drilling, or the importation of petroleum from the Middle East. With cries for the demise of the combustion engine and the rise of the battery based life style, we come full circle to having to create more energy so the batteries can stay fully charged. Recognizing that some will argue over the science of global warming until the cows come home, and others will argue that alternative or green energy is the solution but not until we have a national transmission infrastructure that is comparable to Eisenhower’s interstate highway system, we nevertheless must all walk to the bathroom, look into the mirror, and ask ourselves a simple but difficult question: “Am I willing to change my energy habits?”

For example, this past weekend I borrowed the neighbor’s cordless lawn mower and cut the grass at our house. I have been wanting to try it out and see how well it works. Quiet and no fumes, the little 20 inch Toro mower moved through the wet grass cleanly and easily. When I was done, I returned it and just plugged it in. I never thought that a battery operated mower could handle the job and I was wrong. It worked like a charm. It makes me think twice about the push mower that I currently own.

While many will point fingers at the energy industrial complex as the source of all evil, few will commit to changing their own lifestyle. As senior executives, we know that organizational transformation is the sum of individual transformation. It is the same with the transformation of energy use. If we seek to generate, transmit, and use new sources of energy in new ways, then we have to be willing to understand our own personal energy choices. We are the solution and the problem all wrapped up in one.

What intrigues me on top of our personal choices is the degree to which energy management is creeping into organization’s strategic planning. While, in the past, the price of energy would have surfaced in a traditional SWOT analysis, or a more innovative PESTAL analysis, more and more organizations are starting to put energy management into their strategic plans. While this group is still small in numbers, it is slowly growing as awareness shifts to understanding. Nevertheless, we all must realize that the power industry will not change on a dime unless a large majority of people are willing to invest the capital to build a new infrastructure and the capacity to maintain this infrastructure.

In short, let’s not paint the power industry as people with limited perception or understanding. In recent conversations, they are acutely aware of what is happening in the world related to energy, and understand the short and long term implications of ours and their choices. This week we as senior leaders need to make energy management a part of all future strategic plans. As I mentioned before, our individual choices will impact our collective choices.

Have a great week,


Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257

Monday, August 16, 2010

THEME: Some Thoughts On Current and Emerging Trends

FOCUS: The Intersection of the iPad, Community, and Social Intelligence

Monday morning: August 16, 2010

Dear friends,

With the introduction of the iPad this year and it’s projected 2010 sales being close to 10 million, Steve Jobs noted earlier in the summer that a new iPad is bought at a global level every 3 seconds. With such rapid acceptance, we are witnessing an amazing transformation in technology. This in combination with Goggle’s decision to not utilize Windows due to on-going security problems means the way we work is changing faster than in the past. While I do not think it completely signals the decline of the PC market as Steve Jobs suggested might happen back in June at the D Conference, it clearly signals the start of a whole new way of thinking about the speed of acquisition and the utilization of technology.

First, we need to recognize that software and hardware are skipping past the lap top platform and moving straight to slate based computer systems and smart phones. With texting as the new e-mail system and social media like Facebook topping half a billion users this summer and becoming the new foundation for creating and maintaining relationships, we enter a world were fragmentation is no longer acceptable and seamless integration is the new goal.

It is interesting to note a generational difference rising in the midst of this transformation, particularly between Baby Boomers and Gen Y’s or Millennials. For Baby Boomers, the expectation is that when a light switch goes up, the electricity will always be on. For Gen Xers and Millenials, when a computer or cell phone is on, then the expectation is that there will be 100% connectivity to the internet. The internet is their new electricity.

For generations before the Baby Boomers, there was a gratefulness for just having electricity. For the Baby Boomers, there was an expectation that it should be on and perfect all the time. Now that the internet is the new electricity, the expectation is the same for younger generations. They have an expectation for “electricity level” connectivity and delivery of internet content, and they expect it to move as fast as an electric light switch when turned on.

There is another recent generational difference noted by British neuroscientist Susan Greenfield. We could potentially end up living in a two class society with mostly the younger generation being “the people of the screen” who quick skim and scan the web which lodges in the brian’s short-term memory and is quickly lost, and a mostly older generation who are “people of the book,” who through slow reading experiences generate long term memories. The result is a very different level of understanding and interacting with the world between the generations.

Yet in the midst of these differences and the ongoing desire for more speed and simplicity in technology plus the growth of digital life experiences, there continues to be a growing desire for more real and authentic sense of community. John Naisbitt in his books, Megatrends and Megatrends 2000, wrote that we enter a dualistic world of high tech and high touch. While I recognize that Facebook is being utilized by many if not most of the affluent people in society, the result of this choice is the development of some very unique relationships. For example, people on Facebook may have 1,000 “friends” but only know and communicate with a handful well on a face to face level. Some would argue that young people may not understand that real relationships are first built off-line before going on-line.

Furthermore, we now have entering and influencing the workforce a younger generation that knows how to connect electronically and at the same time chooses different pathways to building relationships than Baby Boomers. For example, it is recognized that most Millennials are good at working on teams and with teams, multi-tasking and utilizing technology to increase productivity. Still, we have to recognize that people who work on successful teams are born from a healthy work place community. And when a team completes it’s work, it, namely the members of the team, will return to the work place community. In short, the source of healthy teams can not be replaced by electronic apps on iPads, or digital, Facebook level only connections.

During the coming years, our work as senior executives will require us to invest in new technology and to learn to interface with the rapidly changing and accelerating global technology platform. Nevertheless as high tech speeds up, we must also come to value high touch, i.e. slower face to face connections that require a degree of social intelligence. In a world that can access more information faster than ever before, we are discovering that more and more people are connected and at the same time feeling disconnected. With so many families scattered across the nation and the globe, and so many traditional social networks like churches and civic groups struggling to maintain membership, we must come to recognize that the building of community within the work place is more important and valuable than ever.

This week understand that the pace of change will continue to accelerate, and that the need to build social intelligence will be as important as digital and technological intelligence.

Have a marvelous week,


P.S. For those of you who are looking for a good article, I suggest you read “Powerlessness Corrupts” by Rosabeth Moss Kanter in the July-August 2010 issue of the Harvard Business Review. This is a short but very thoughtful essay about how powerlessness, particularly in the middle ranks, can fuel resentment, infighting and intergroup conflicts over resources. If you are looking to find a thoughtful way to start a team meeting, this single page essay with good observations and perspective is a good place to begin.

Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257