Moving Through the economic times

I tend to keep an eye on the news.  It reminds of the work of John Naisbitt and his famous book, “Megatrends”.  His book made a host of predictions that turned out to be really helpful to organizations.  He was and remains one of my heroes of “looking for patterns”.

My car lease ran out at the end of March and I found myself in the position of having to replace my car.  Buying a new car was something I did not want to do.  Leasing another car seemed risky.  In the end, I bought a used car.  It works great and the service at the dealership was excellent.  Yet, as I went through the entire experience a few patterns emerged for me about our changing economy.

Point #1 – Having a job is important!

This is not a new point.  Yet, as I wandered through the dealership, I was reminded by the one simply fact.  No job, no car.  In fact, no job can translate into no home, no food, no… well you know.  No nothing!  Meaningful employment is important.

Point #2 – Benefits are critical!

As we grow older, we need those drug benefit plans to ensure we can pay for the drugs and health services we need.  Without them, the cost of health can become a battle between food, shelter and health.  I firmly believe benefits are going to the next real challenge for families and working people.  Without benefits, we place people and families at grave risk.

Point #3 – A Pension Plan is a Must

I was surprised to read about the overall reaction of people to pay out packages for executives.  As I shared with a friend, no one talks when Executives are hired, they only seem to react when they hear they are leaving with a “golden parachute”.  I think the critical point is people need to know they will have enough money when they stop work to keep living.  Or else, people work until they can’t work any more.  People need a plan they can have confidence in as they approach the question of wether they want to continue to work or stop working.  A pension is not a gift, its a very important part of life.  We all need one.

Moving Forward in the Fog

The tough economic times remind me of driving in the fog.  You can usually see a small distance in front of you, coupled with driving carefully, you can remain safe.   If you proceed with caution while driving, you will arrive.  As we move through these times, people need to know their is something meaningful for them to do every day.  Like driving with caution, people need to keep working in order feel progress, safety and to know they are making a difference.  Benefits, like seat belts, keep people safe when driving in the soup of life.  And above all, pensions provide the comfort to know when it’s acceptable to stop and let someone else drive.

The recession will continue.  It’s far from over.  However, collectively, we can make through this fog.

And we will be better for the experience.

After all, that’s what I remember when I’m driving down the road.

Jerry

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Racing toward the Unknown Finish Line

As we start 2009, I can’t help stop thinking about how 2008 ended.

It was a year where I saw three factors start to emerge in to a pattern.

The first was the factor of clarity. Organizations and policy makers were looking to “clarify” any number of topics and issues. For example, organizations were asked to document or explain how a program or service really works. In some cases, they were asked to provide “evidence based literature” that there service or activity “really works”. The push for clarity was significant in 2008 and I see it continuing in 2009.

The second was accountability. I think accountability is the new word for 2009 yet it started almost two years ago when the Ontario Government stated it would seek “Accountability Agreements with its Health Care Providers”. The focus on making people accountable is not new. However, the current focus in accountability appears to push towards to being able assign blame when things go wrong and not be responsible for find solutions to emerging problems. In an ideal world, the plan would always work as published. Yet, this is note the case. Planning and operations are interactive. You plan, your try it, you learn from the reality of your plan and you adjust. The current push on accountability appears to fail to understand this cycle. Instead, it assumes strong levels of accountability will guarantee results. Personally, accountability without forgiveness for failures and problems is problematic. I mention forgiveness because everyone makes mistakes. It is part of being human. It is essential in being accountable.

The third and final factor was speed. Last year ended like the sprint at the end of a great marathon. Everyone, just like a runner, using every last ounce of energy and will raced to the end of the 2008 to get things done. Groups meet the few days before Christmas. Emails flew through the internet with assignments, tasks and requests. People were on the move. Yet, I wonder for all of the speed and motion, are we getting more done or just doing more things. Speed is something that is rewarded in today’s always connected environment. Productivity is something that everyone dreams would improve. It maybe our zeal for speed impacts our ability to produce.

Clarity, accountability and speed form a pattern that influences individuals and organization. Collectively, I think they tell a bigger story about our need for results. We want people to be clear about the outcomes, assigned responsibilities and the time line for delivery. We want to know why we are racing to finish line. We want to be accountable and clear about why we are doing our work. In the end, we want to know if the results we generate really matter!

It is early in 2009.

I think when we look around us, we will see the request for results from others and ourselves is influenced by all three factors.

As a mentor once told me, finishing is important. Knowing what is going on during a race is just as important.

Let’s see if we can clarify both the finish line and the race as the year proceeds.

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