Peter Drucker was once asked about the accuracy of predictions.
“I don’t predict,” he responded, “I look out of the window and identify what is most visible, but not yet seen.”
In 1987 the Hudson Institute published its seminal report, Workforce 2000. Ten years later it reprised the analysis with the publication of Workforce 2020. In between several important Harvard Business Review articles covered similar ground, though taking more of a global view. By the end of the decade, McKinsey’s War for Talent was capturing considerable executive attention.
Each took a long-term view of the confluence of societal trends, demographics, education sector deficiencies, globalization, technological advances and workforce supply & demand. Each warned advanced-economy government, business, labor and education leaders that, absent the collaborative development of fresh solutions, trouble lay ahead. In parallel, business thought-leaders like Peter Senge, Meg Wheatley, Charles Handy and Gary Hamel were challenging conventional wisdom and urging that new realities required fresh thinking.
The rest is history.
Fast forward to 2012. Several substantive and insightful new reports have been published this year that center on contemporary and impending global labor market discontinuities. They all cover somewhat related ground from different vantage points and paint a picture of the present that is quite consistent with that of the earlier forecasts. Importantly, each warns leaders in both advanced - and now also in developing economies - of the considerable economic and societal consequences of failing to act to solve the challenges ahead:
- Help Wanted: The Future of Work in Advanced Economies, The McKinsey Institute, March 2012
- Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Lives - A Strategic Approach to Skills Policies, OECD, May 2012
- The World at Work – Jobs, Pay and Skills for 3.5 Billion People, The McKinsey Institute, June 2012
- False Summit – The State of Human Capital 2012, The Conference Board and McKinsey & Company, October 2012
This 2012 body of work is serious stuff. Its antecedents were serious too, but in the end issue-avoidance and short-term-ism - regretfully – brought the future home to roost.
Here’s the rub. Unless we pay attention and do something proactively to respond to these dynamics, organizations will increasingly struggle and competitiveness will continue to erode. Form will follow function, we know this. The pivotal question is who will be ostriches and eagles this time around?
Clearly, we have a Point of View. We hope that executives earnestly examine the strategic implications of these forces and build out strategies and capabilities to future-proof their enterprise.
Charlesmore Partners International specializes in organizational strategy. We have a track-record of building high performance organizations and experientially-developed methodologies that help organizations get ready for the future.
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