We are about to conclude this year. The year of 2012 is almost over. The obvious question is have you achieved your goals? Have you achieved your income goal? Have you called the people you said you would call? Have you lost the weight, or read the books or spent time with loved ones? If you have, have you taken time to celebrate? Be sure you and your coach are making plans to maintain the momentum or making plans to get back on track. Are you a leader or do you know a leader?

Rethinking the Future:
Leadership for the 21st Century

The industrial age of business was a system that operated with linearity and logic— with vertical integration, synergy, economies of scale, and hierarchical, command-and-control modi operandi. This is giving way to new forms of outsourcing, minimization of scale, an emphasis on profit centers, networks and other diverse forms of organization. When an old paradigm crumbles and a new one is not yet securely in place, we experience frequent bursts of creative thinking. Accompanying this is an equivalent degree of chaos and confusion, with feelings of uncertainty. Moving into the 21st century amid such radical change and confusion has proved difficult for business leaders. We need to rethink our previous assumptions about where we are going—in business, as well as our societal infrastructure. This mandate is further underscored by a growing sense of discomfort in the business community. What we have known and depended upon for past successes is no longer sufficient when preparing for the future.

Preparing for Tomorrow

How do we construct a framework to rethink the future? Many leaders have written about the needs of the future, but they do not offer a crystal ball. They do, however, provide a framework for thinking about the decades ahead, posing questions that we, as leaders, must consider. Three concepts emerge from interviews and conversations with leading futurists, as revealed in the book Rethinking the Future, edited by Rowan Gibson (1998):

    1. "The Road Stops Here." The future will be different from the past, yet most of us behave as though this is untrue. Today's leaders steadfastly cling to the notion that what worked in the past will work again. They also incorrectly assume that when things go wrong, they can be fixed, thus returning them to the way things are "supposed" to be. This, unfortunately, is delusional thinking.

    2. "New Times Call for New Kinds of Organizations." Organizations must navigate rough, uncertain business terrains they've never before encountered. They must be flexible and capable of handling the information age's demands

    3. "Where Do We Go Next?" Leaders are finding it increasingly difficult to make confident strategic decisions. They need a vision, destination and point of view about the future, as well as a direction to channel the efforts of the people with whom they work. The problem with all of this? There is no roadmap. Leaders will be forced to look ahead and explore for themselves when making decisions.

New Assumptions

We must challenge our assumptions at every juncture in the decision-making process and unlearn the past. This can be tricky, as assumptions are so ingrained that we hardly notice them. Ask yourself:

  • Why is the nature of competition changing so drastically?

  • What is the new "network economy" How does it fundamentally differ from the industrial economy?

  • Is it better to be big and powerful or small and flexible in the global economy? Should companies broaden their product lines, or should they become more specialized and focused?

  • Will technology make geographical location increasingly irrelevant?

  • Will Asia's modernization shift the world's center of economic, political and cultural gravity from the Western to the Eastern world?

  • As technology democratizes not just our workplaces, but our societies and world, does it foreshadow the end of government as we know it?
Organizations as Biological Organisms

The new organization will resemble a biological organism more than a machine. It will consist of a distributed network of minds – people working and learning together, both inside and outside company walls, with an invitation for customers to participate.

The challenge calls for radical change. Here are some questions to examine:

  • How do we create a radically decentralized, networked organization?

  • Which principles will guide the successful 21st-century enterprise? Should top management give employees a meaningful voice when it comes to ownership and running the company?

  • As corporations and their networks become increasingly complex, how will we control them? Will companies develop a bottom-up type of control, as we find in a swarm of bees or flock of birds?

  • Will the shift to a new management model become a global phenomenon, or will there be different rates of progress in distinct parts of the world?
What's Next?

Many organizations are investing capital in operational efficiency, as if it were a destination unto itself. "Lean and mean" does not lead to success in the new century. Winning organizations will stay ahead of the change curve, creating new markets and reinventing the rules of competition.

Leaders will need to look forward, scan the landscape, and spot trends and new opportunities. They will use advanced technology to give them an interactive, real-time connection with the marketplace, receiving feedback from sensors at the organization's peripheries.

Review the following questions so you can rethink leadership and strategy for the 21st century:

  • Is your organization managing the present, without thinking about creating the future?

  • Who should be involved in developing and implementing strategy?

  • How important will technology be in creating a competitive advantage?

  • How can your company balance the need for radical change with the need for strategic continuity? When does it actually become necessary to change your competitive strategy?

  • What can you do to make the most of emerging opportunities? How can you minimize risks?

  • What will be required to lead successfully in a global economy?

  • What can leaders do to ensure their corporate culture will be a strategic asset, rather than a change anchor?

  • Does the organization have a responsibility to give people a connection with their purpose in life?
Leaders are encouraged to think deeply about the issues that will change how business is conducted in the 21st century. There are no easy answers. Serious thought and discussion will help you stay in the game while the rules are being changed.

Final Thoughts:

Do you know a leader who would find these thoughts interesting and thought provoking? Please help improve our world by forwarding this to your friends. Who knows where these thought seeds might take root and grow.

Do you know someone who is ready to try coaching? I love to give free "test drives" and help people find the right coach.

Enjoy 2013! Be sure you are taking good care of #1.

Coach Jerry


Please forward this to one of your friends, so they can become a subscriber by going to my web site coachpinney.com and signing up.

Jerry Pinney

For the last twenty-two years Jerry Pinney has been president of his own consulting firm. Currently he focuses his efforts on providing executive and personal coaching to persons who are interested in improving their quality of life and consulting to small and mid-sized companies and nonprofits. He is a facilitator for peer advisory groups with The Alternative Board and is a Certified One Page Planning Consultant. Jerry has over three decades of experience in the food industry, and possesses a unique perspective of customer service, marketing and strategic planning. In addition to overall general management qualifications, Jerry has proven expertise in operational planning and business development. His food industry career started at Jewel Food Stores followed by a long career with IGA, with their retailers, wholesalers and ten years as Vice President of Marketing. In addition Jerry has served as Vice President of Membership for the National Grocers Association, Sr. Vice President of Procurement for Shurfine International and Executive Manager of The Zenon Hansen Foundation.

Jerry has also served on a number of nonprofit boards including: President of the Volunteer Center of Northwest Suburban Chicago. He is currently a Project Manager for the Executive Service Corps of Chicago. Jerry’s ESC assignments have included coaching for several Executive Directors, and consulting on various Board Development projects and on a number of strategic planning projects.

Jerry Pinney & Associates
102 East 32nd Street
Chicago, IL,
phone: 312-842-4577,
fax: 312-842-4705

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