Monday, April 11, 2011

Looking Back to Look Forward

As I prepared for the Spring 2011 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable which will take place this coming Thursday and Friday, April 14 - 15, at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Coralville, Iowa, I went back and reviewed my notes from the influential books I had read during the last 20 years. One book that caught my eye and made me think was edited by France Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith and Richard Beckhard called The Organization of the Future, Jossey-Bass, 1997. As the editors noted, “we are moving toward a network society rather than an employee society,” and “the organization of the future must balance the internal concern for getting the work done with the external concern of serving the market.” These were powerful insights in the 90’s and they still ring true today.

One chapter within this book that really got me thinking then and now was written by Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a favorite author of mine, called “Restoring People to the Heart of the Organization of the Future.” Here in the mid-90’s, she outlined six trends that were transforming the work place:

1. From fat to lean: the new staffing principle

2. From vertical to horizontal: the new organization

3. From homogeneity to diversity: the new workforce

4. From status and command rights to expertise and new relationships: the new power source

5. From company to project: the new loyalty

6. From organizational capital to reputational capital: the career asset

Sitting here today in 2011, I am amazed and delighted with how on-target she was over 14 years ago. Each of the above trends are part of the new normal and especially important given what took place in September 2008.

One element within the chapter that also has me thinking this week is her comments on the emerging role of leaders and managers. She notes back in the mid-90’s that leaders and managers will need to do the following four things:

1. conceive and execute complex strategies

2. share and protect intellectual property

3. manage the public-private interface

4. provide intellectual and administrative leadership

I agree that today’s managers do need to develop and deliver on complex strategies. Intellectual property rights continue to be a very important issue as we enter into a more global economy. The public-private interface continues to be a major issue particularly as state and federal governments seek new solutions to their current funding challenges. And finally, providing strategic leadership and operational leadership will not get any easier.

But the key for all of us here today is to realize that these insights from the mid-90’s are now a regular part of the lexicon within today’s business dialogue. Therefore, we as business leaders in the early part of this decade need to sit down and carefully study what people are thinking about the future now. We need to reflect and read extensively about the current and emerging trends. We must recognize that if the book, The Organization of the Future, back in 1997 was so on-track about the future, then there are numerous other authors and futurists today who are just as on-track for what the world will be like in 2025.

This week at the Spring 2011 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable we will be thinking and talking about the challenges of today and the challenges of the future. If you can not join us, I strongly encourage you to create your own roundtable experience within your organization so you can focus on the future in a proactive manner. You may be surprised and delighted by what you discover.

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

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