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2011's Challenges

Agriculture, manufacturing, high tech, executive education, and deep client consulting. 2011 is off to a start of challenging work with my clientele.

Some of the watchwords for the work include volatility, the unexpected, and hopeful improvement. Energy and the economy are two of the most crucial forecasting areas as almost every client looks ahead for the next 2-5 years.

In another few months we’ll see politics ramp up even higher as the foray’s into the Iowa caucus begin. My government clients, especially in the Federal arena, are wondering if they’ll have funding for their education projects and hiring.

In agriculture, transportation, and manufacturing eyes are on the Middle East’s unprecedented developments. The tragedy and ripple effects of a Libyan civil war dominate current thinking but the possibility of Saudi unrest is the real trump card. Some of the work being done in strategy and decision-making meetings by my clients is not just interesting - it’s engrossing and both fundamentally disturbing and profoundly philosophical.

It’s an interesting time to consult as a futurist.

Busy isn't the word

Beginning in August of this year work was frantic.

During the five month stretch that closed out the year I racked up over 50,000 miles traveling between projects and assignments in the U.S. It was gratifying but exhausting.

My executive education work with the Social Security Administration turned into working sessions with their top leadership as they move toward developing a new strategic plan. As you can imagine, the agency faces some obvious and daunting issues as the Baby Boom generation becomes customers beginning... right now!

Agriculture was prominent in the schedule. Not only did I conduct a half-dozen leadership education sessions in the grain and oilseed sectors but I continued work with the cooperative movement in ag.

One of my most interesting projects is development of a set of scenarios for a grain sector that is encountering declining acreage. Their crop is uniquely suited to their geography and I believe they are just “one breakthrough away” from a robust recovery as I put it in an address to their annual meeting. The scenario work is one of the fun aspects to the futurist field. I get to tell stories of the future and make them both entertaining and compelling. Their very good professional staff developed the kernels of the issues and I’m providing finished product.

A lot of work crowded into the schedule at the last minute. Some took me to wonderful spots to work with interesting groups. I’d done a significant number of advisory sessions with some of America’s wealthiest families over the past decade. I was called back to deliver a short session for a group in a philanthropic setting made up of multi-millionaire families. It’s fascinating to hear their perspectives given the economic and political currents flowing in our country currently.
2011 is shaping up as a challenging year. Not only will I work with my continuously growing clientele of strategic planning clients but I’ll revisit a long-time alliance with the Institute for Management Studies which is doing some of the best work I’ve observed on “leveraged learning” for executives.

Pace Picking Up

Late summer is normally a fairly quiet time. Not this year.

I’m scrambling to cover the bases before heading out into the sultry weather of the South for a ten day road trip working with a number of projects.

I’ll work for the 16th straight year as faculty for one of the most prestigious leadership education programs in agriculture. Attendees are state leaders for associations and check-off programs for America’s biggest cash crops. I’ve enjoyed the long association and am always flattered to be asked back.

A stressed industry is next: telecommunications. The flood of competition is stressing long term successful companies in the field. Strong price competition. Uneven application of government funding. Critical culture changes from a formerly regulated environment to hyper-competition are all causing massive pain. My client is in the middle of it. Two days of strategy discussion and advising.

Finally a long drive to deliver the Vigilant Leadership seminar to the top officials at one of our government’s largest agencies. I’m looking forward to adding another client in this sector where I’ve been working more lately.

Projects we’re working on right now:

  • Coordination of agendas, preparation, advanced reading, issue selection with three large financial institutions for strategy retreats. Preparatory presentations to focus on regional issues, the future of financial services, how regulatory changes will evolve, succession planning.
  • Forecast for a highly stressed US industry: construction. Narrowed scenarios for economic recovery, regional recoveries, segments that will do well, best strategies in extended downturns.
  • Consulting on issue management, development of persuasion materials, forming alliances for one of my top industry segments: agriculture.
  • Preparation of curriculum for a full-day education session for cooperative leadership. Focus: anticipatory skillsets applied to governance, strategy, and implementation.