Magazine article The Futurist

Sailing into the Millennium

Magazine article The Futurist

Sailing into the Millennium

Article excerpt

To successfully sail through the turbulent waters of the twenty-first century, organizations must become fast and agile. In the more-stable environment of the past, competition was won by huge battleships like IBM and General Motors, but it is clear that the competitive edge in tomorrow's environment will go to agile organizations with a sure hand at the wheel, an aerodynamic organizational architecture, and quick and finely turned reflexes.

Think of the pace-setting company as a sailboat, striving to make headway successfully in the choppy seas of the global economy. It is being buffeted by successive waves of intense global competition and rapid technological change and by a ground swell of shifting demographic bases.

Our sailboat needs strong and foresighted leadership that gives the firm a clear and compelling vision of its intended course. It needs a seaworthy hull that can span the globe and is flexible and adaptive in its design. It needs to be integrated internally to allow effective cross-functional operations. It needs to utilize the latest in information technology. It needs to be flatter in organizational structure, with a flexible and empowered work force, and responsive to practical and ethical concerns from the firm's stakeholders.

The driving forces that fill its sails are commitments to customer-driven values, a total-quality and value-added focus, time-based competition, an innovative and entrepreneurial culture, and a network of vigorous partners to draw upon as needed.

Much of the success of this pace-setting organization depends upon how these characteristics are used by "the crew," that is, by the employees. That puts great stress on the ability of the organization to recruit, train, and keep a skilled, adaptive, and innovative work force that is empowered and responsible for producing high-quality, high-value-added output.

It is important to remember that the 12 traits depicted in this sailboat illustration are not isolated, but interrelated and mutually reinforcing goals. For example, the pace-setting firm must become an innovative, entrepreneurial organization. One of the most effective ways to move in this direction is to empower the talented employees within the organization. Give them more responsibilities, encourage them to be more imaginative and to use more initiative. …

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