SEVEN AND A HALF MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT

seven-and-a-half-minutes-to-midnightSome years ago former Prime Minister John Howard made a statement to the Australian people when he said “don’t be alarmed, be aware.” over a matter of national security. What I am about to say in the context of business today carries the same message.
What is the meaning of the title of this article? The 7 ½ minutes I refer to can be translated into seven and half years when another major change in our society will occur. This is when most of the baby boomer generation will leave the workforce in 2023 and when the leadership and management of organisations will transfer to their younger counterparts. In recent years we have heard the difficulties of relationships between the various groups and a sense of foreboding has been the clarion call of many including a vociferous media.
The focus on generational change has distracted us from some very other important issues we face, that is how we prepare our people in managing business in a completely different environment they will inherit. There is no doubt in my mind that they will have no peers in terms of technical competence, the area which they may struggle is how to understand and manage people. Remember the time scale for achieving this is very short.
This inheritance does not come without its baggage, extremely low levels of engagement are being witnessed, how to establish and maintain trust, motivation in organisations will require a new approach to management which is more about collaboration than control.
I am on record in repeating the statement that whilst the call to leadership is still important in our society the reality of the situation is that people have stopped listening to the messages that are intended to convince them to accept  change. This is not necessarily the fault of company’s rather a series of events which have culminated in the breakdown of trust and despite their considerable efforts not enough traction can be seen.
The role of educationalists (of which I am one) needs to change, the gravy train we have been riding  in recent years of solely teaching leadership to selected parts of business is vastly running out of steam and we should acknowledge it is time to initiate some new thinking. There also appears to be a growing call from the market who are demanding a new range solutions.
The key for the future is to use one’s resources in alternative channels other than the CEO /senior executive who today may have a better opportunity to achieve the results needed.
What may have been previously appropriate in times gone by; is simply not working anymore the investment in education should be redirected to a wider range of people in the workplace is something that needs to be urgently considered.
I have a nagging fear that we may struggle to achieve what I am advocating and in the short term (7.5years) the clock will beat us, meaning we will not equip our managers with the tools necessary to operate in what is a very complicated and competitive market place when they eventually take over the reins.
Then on the other hand my underlying optimism is that the change of thinking that I am seeking can be initiated enabling our businesses to move forward with confidence.
Ken Wood
Banyan Management Services Pty Ltd
21st June 2015