Reports from the Knowledge Labs about our recent findings, research topics, and interviews with lifestyle leaders who are creating their own futures.

How to stimulate your own powers of foresight. Consider the following thought provokers. Ask yourself, in these categories what are the brand new trends and forces? Which are the ones growing in importance? Which current forces are loosing their steam? Which have peaked or are reversing themselves? Which are the "wildcards" about to disrupt us in the future? POLITICAL AND TECHNICAL thought for food: Electronics, Materials, Energy, Fossil, Nuclear, Alternative, Other, Manufacturing (techniques), Agriculture, Machinery and Equipment, Distribution, Transportation (Urban, Mass, Personal, Surface, Sea, Subsurface, Space), Communication (Printed, Spoken, Interactive, Media), Computers (Information, Knowledge, Storage & Retrieval, Design, Network Resources), Post-Cold War, Third World, Conflict (Local, Regional, Global), Arms Limitation, Undeclared Wars, Terrorism, Nuclear Proliferation, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Governments (More/Less Power and Larger or Smaller Scale), Taxes, Isms: Nationalism, Regionalism, Protectionism, Populism, Cartels, Multinational Corporations, Balance of Trade, Third Party Payments, Regulations (OSHA, etc.) Environmental Impact, U.S. Prestige Abroad. SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC Food for thought: Labor Movements, Unemployment / Employment Cycles, Recession, Employment Patterns, Work Hours / Schedules, Fringe Benefits, Management Approaches, Accounting Policies, Productivity, Energy Costs, Balance of Payments, Inflation, Taxes, Rates of Real Growth, Distribution of Wealth, Capital Availability and Costs, Reliability of Forecasts, Raw Materials, Availability and Costs, Global versus National Economy, Market versus Planned Economies, Generations: Y, X, Boomers, Elderly, Urban vs. Rural Lifestyles, Affluent vs. Poor, Neighborhoods and Communities, Planned or Organic Growth. Got Knowledge?

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The Journal of 2020 Foresight
Saturday, May 03, 2003  

Associates: Welcome Back Kotter / Learning Together Scenario

Chapter Two: The Ridge

By Steve Howard, CKO
The Knowledge Labs

Table of Contents
Chapter One: Basecamp
Chapter Two: The Ridge
Chapter Three: The Outpost
Chapter Four: The Tribal Territories

"The biggest barriers to change are leaders with vested interests in the status quo. CEOs often fail to accept responsibility for past mistakes and deny the need for transition. Many find it embarrassing, politically dangerous, and even humiliating to admit that they were wrong. So they rationalize poor performance, blame the environment, and minimize the severity of problems. In researching change, Peter Friesen and I found that most reorientations occur only after two events: a severe decline in performance and a change in leadership. Pain, not good advice, is the doctor most companies listen to. And too many leaders stubbornly cling to disastrous policies of their own making and must be replaced."

Danny Miller, The Icarus Paradox

Journal of 2020 Foresight: What the last two talent scenarios had in common was technology-driven speed. Extreme Agents got the ball rolling with disruptive innovations, while Extreme Athletes harnessed the emerging knowledge generated by rapid execution.

Trailblazer: Agents give us one. Athletes take that one and produce a thousand more.

J2020F: What about Associates?

TB: Well, for one they share a need for affiliation with Athletes. They share a slower pace and a time for mastering a process or practice with the more independent Academics.

J2020F: Don't they sit polar opposite of Extreme Agents along the innovation continuum.

TB: Yes. They're on the hook to sustain the former innovations on behalf of their growing and maturing organization.

J2020F: Earlier you said the HR executives began their implications wheel with two core forces and then branched out from them. What did they begin with in the Associate quadrant?

TB: They struggled with this quadrant. At first all the worse stories surfaced about bureaucratic organizations. Slow pace, Organizational Loyalty. All the jokes about people retired on the job. But, they were able to come up with two neutral forces:

The Extreme Associate-centered organization has a huge investment in an installed base already, but questions its pathway to growth; and

Their product lifespan is longer. They are used to a slower pace of change, in a more predictable and stable business environment.

J2020F: We discussed how in the start up and early growth states, Athletes partnered with Agents to bring a leading product to market and position the organization for growth.

TB: During the hyper-growth period, extreme Associates come on board to fill in as expansion opens large cracks in the operations. Associates help Athletes build the organization as a brand, rather than the first product as the brand.

J2020F: How do the value propositions change? You said earlier Agents and Athletes integrate product leader and operational excellence.

TB: That's right. Because demand stresses and strains the organization, the operational excellence value proposition continues. Extreme Associates sustain the innovations that built the organization.

J2020F: It sounds like they'd say, "If you truly want to have the lowest total cost, make sure your service is effortless, flawless, and instantaneous."

TB: Because they have a huge investment in an installed customer base, they redesign most aspects of the customer-service cycle. This cycle -- selecting, ordering, receiving, paying for, and maintaining a product -- has been aggressively simplified, streamlined, and improved.

J2020F: Is this the same kind of repeatability we discussed with the initial startup operations?

TB: In a way. One of the main keys to achieving operational excellence in customer service is the same as in manufacturing: Do it one and only one way. In customer service, too, variety kills efficiency.

J2020F: The ruling method of growth in more mature Associate organizations builds on similarity and likeness. Anything that might disturb the basic pattern is eliminated or discarded, right?

TB: That's right. As the organization grows, it becomes more complex. Loose organic states evolve into tighter functional organizations. Functional structures evolve into looser divisional structures. Divisions tighten into matrix organizations which loosen into network organizations.

J2020F: That's why a loyal affiliated talent culture is needed?

TB: Sure. To mature and survive an organizational brand needs to be accepted by the majority of the total available market. Associates maintain that reputation. Through their behaviors they develop a trust mark that keeps bringing long term customers back again and again.

J2020F: So, they can offer multiple products and services, each one being unique. But, they will be well received under a larger brand umbrella?

TB: Exactly. Individual Associates willingly subordinate their own identity to the collective good. They take pride in their organization's brand and in their role delivering on the brand promise to their customers.

J2020F: The second driving force in this quadrant, you said, was: "Their product lifespan is longer. They are used to a slower pace of change, in a more predictable and stable business environment."

TB: That translates into a culture of tradition and rituals.

J2020F: How so?

TB: The repetition and perpetuation of success by building on likeness is so crucial that it becomes an inherent and unseen problem. Like-minded people with similar backgrounds and education are hired and promoted.

J2020F: Are you saying success blinds the organization to the need for change?

TB: Think about it. It?s a classic syndrome -- what Danny Miller called the Icarus Paradox. As their experience and body of knowledge grow, they tend to feel threatened by internal or external challenges. Selective attention takes over.

J2020F: So, in effect, perceptual screens are constructed to filter out information and ideas that could interfere with rote pattern repetition.

TB: That?s right. The people in the system are unable to see the changes that are happening in their environment. Often the data that people ignore have to do with factors that could literally drive them out of business.

J2020F: Sounds like a giant case of group think. Almost cult-like.

TB: They become their own worst enemies. Their past success blinds the organization to need for change.

J2020F: So they resist change that involves doing things differently

TB: And, they will resist change regardless of obvious need or changed conditions. The result is that unpredictable modes of failure regularly occur, often where least expected.

J2020F: So in the end, the organization will not be able to make the vital changes needed for survival and growth.

TB: And, yet it is the team that counts. The survival of the team.

J2020F: So, unlike the Athlete, where individual performance counts for a lot, as well as for the team. in Associate-dominant organizations the individual doesn?t count?

TB: Think of the Marine Corps. People connections are narrow and specialized. Individuals know little about what is happening outside of their area. Problems aren?t relevant if they don't directly effect your department.

J2020F: So everybody knows what their tactical priorities are?

TB: And the rule book. When the action starts, everyone knows exactly what he or she has to do.

J2020F: It doesn't sound like Agents need apply.

TB: These outfits aren't looking for free spirits. They want people who are trainable. The heroes are the ones who fit in and came up from the ranks.

J2020F: This isn't about capturing emerging knowledge or disruptive innovation. It isn't about getting products to market faster to significantly boost margins.

TB: No, It's about commodity labor, low overhead, and efficiently streamlined processes.

J2020F: Like the traditional American fighting forces ? because they were centralized, regimented, standardized and highly structured -- for the next talent cluster, they?re perfect laboratories in which Academics like to construct highly automated transaction systems, common and shared data bases, and tightly integrated applications.

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