As a Management Strategist, you should always be looking some years out into the future to identify and prepare yourself for “Emerging” Issues that will probably influence your industry, market, or other dimensions of your operating environment. Emerging Issues are presently “unimportant”, not yet “urgent”, and (self-evidently) are fraught with “uncertainty”.
• Emerging Issues are normally external to the enterprise; they are highly uncertain and at present are of low importance to management. (These are the issues that your research will be looking at.) The significance of this category lies in the fact that issues here have the potential to become Highly Important to the firm in the future. Consequently, it is the (Management) strategist’s job to raise awareness of them so that they can be monitored and, when the moment is right, proper responses can be made. (Ignoring Emerging Issues until the last minute is tantamount to putting one’s head in the sand and then suddenly (years too late perhaps) having either to make crisis responses to what is now a very serious problem indeed or kicking oneself with regret that a great opportunity was missed. As an example, an Emerging Issue for some NZ firms might be the progressively closer economic dependencies between this country and Australia – so where might this lead?
• As time passes some Emerging Issues become so real for the firm that a decision is made to ‘Do something about this’. The firm is now in Strategy-mode and the hunt is on to make sense of the issue. Detailed analysis, discussion, research and consideration of such things as opportunity costs, options and how to implement them run to the front of the stage at this point. Note that the firm is now dealing with real issues that – whatever is decided – will have a long-term impact on the firm and which are difficult and costly to reverse, but which remain Highly Uncertain.
• Agreed strategy around an issue then moves towards Operationalisation or Implementation. Internal process factors now become very important – all the more so if the new strategy to address the issue requires significant organisational change. (Of course it to be expected that the Strategy phase and the Implementation phase are going to be tightly merged in practice and so the line that divides them is more of sounding board than a solid boundary.)
• Finally, the circle is complete when the organisation gets into a settled and routine way of dealing with what is now a relatively unimportant and highly familiar way of doing things. Issues running around in this area are predominantly internal.
What are some typical relationships?
• Internal issues tend to be found in the Implementation and Maintenance clusters.
• Top management should be alert to Emerging and Strategic Issues, whilst lower-level staff are focused on Implementation and Maintenance Issues.
• Volatile issues appear to progress from the Emerging cluster to the Strategic, to Implementation to Maintenance.
• Stable issues tend to remain in wherever cluster they happen to be first identified.
• Issues in the uncertain bottom half tend to be more open-ended and ambiguous. They are complex, difficult to define, and often controversial so requiring the application of a complex, cognitive mind to understand them. More ‘surprises’ rather than trends would emerge from this half of the picture.
• Some issues will be short-term whilst others are long term. Whilst the picture created by management will say a lot about the time and strategic orientation of a firm, it is fundamental that emerging issues are often the cause of new trends or surprises. (What this may mean is that if a business manager reveals a heavy preoccupation with a day-to- day business picture, such a time orientation may mean that strategically the business would be more reactive and aware only of general issues that are already commonplace and widely recognised.)
• Short-term issues tend to be symptomatic rather than causal. For example, problems or opportunities thrown up by a shift in the foreign exchange rate (a short term issue) are acute symptoms of the firm’s situation. On the other hand, market power shifts due to the progressive concentration of national retail chains or agri-business corporations are long-term and so translate into deep-rooted, causal results.
• Some issues are very close to the individual firm’s own activities and decisions and others exist at a distance. Those far removed tend to be external and long-term. Watching them and projecting possible future patterns and surprises (scenarios) would give management a better basis for understanding (if not predicting) the future.
• Some issues will be easy to describe verbally and to measure empirically (e.g. using a structured questionnaire) whilst others will be quite the reverse.
• Qualitative’ issues (e.g. the post-election economic policy changes) tend to be more uncertain than ‘hard’ issues (e.g. increasing energy prices).
What do I need to do?
• You should decide on the scope of your research project. You can either look at a particular Industry (e.g. domestic airlines, tourism, Internet service, etc.) or you can consider a particular Management Area (e.g. leadership, human resources, motivation, planning, controlling). NB: You will require clearance from your lecturer to continue.
• Your work must be personally original (e.g.) it cannot recycle 772 Strategic Marketing Management research.
• Your project scale must be pegged at the macro level. This means that you must focus on the national or global arena and avoid the specific issues experienced by individual enterprises.
• Your project’s tone must be practical and pragmatic. This means that it must not stray off into excessively philosophical perspectives. It must be grounded in hard data that has been synthesised into information that is practically useful for Strategic planning.
• Your time-scale will comprise two periods: the Short-Term (2018/19) and the Long-Term (2018-2023/4).
• You must submit an individual report and no two individuals can research identical or very similar industries or functions.
• Because this project can be completed using secondary data, there is no requirement for you to conduct personal interviews. However, if you wish to perform any primary research, you must justify this to me and obtain my prior approval. This application must be lodged well beforehand.
• Your report must be presented as a Conference Paper to an association of international management professionals and academics. The expected length is 10-12 full pages of text. Appendices and citations will not count within this limit.