s we mentioned in the last issue’s letter, true strategic thinking demands that we seek answers to questions we’ve never asked before, think outside the box of our traditional job expectations and think more proactively in order to enhance productivity, efficiency and, ultimately, profitability.
A critical first step in that process is to determine what questions need to be asked, to Identify Opportunities and Determine Their Applicability to Your Business.
Warning! In taking on a more strategic role, you might find yourself initially working harder and longer, in essence painting with both hands. But keep the end goal in mind. The more strategic work you do, the smaller the daily fires we all face will become. And if new goals demand a larger workforce, it’s here where you start building the business case for that increase.
As we discussed in the prior letter, information gathering begins with identifying sources both within and outside of your company, those who might provide distinct insights. Inside, this will include your peers, your staff and the leaders of other departments such as Operations. Outside, you can tap into brokers, site selection experts, economic developers, other service providers and corporate IAMC colleagues.
The IAMC Forums and Locals, of course, are a great source for this interaction, but only if you use them to step outside your comfort zone, talk with people you never engaged with before and attend sessions that you never would have considered previously.
The old saying about not knowing what you don’t know applies here. Evaluate honestly the opportunities that are open to you by engaging with a new cadre of professionals. The IAMC programs are always a great opportunity for camaraderie and learning. Attending with the intention of stepping outside your comfort zone, thinking bigger and broader than ever, will enhance the experience and advance your mission to be strategic.
Sit in on IAMC Forum sessions you wouldn’t ordinarily pick. Ask questions at IAMC Locals of people who might seem at first glance to have little relevance for your goals. You might be surprised by what you learn. No intriguing surprises await you if you don’t try.
Let’s look at some possible areas of new exploration, some questions that maybe you hadn’t thought of before. Let’s say you’re a distributor. Have you talked with manufacturers about their approaches to site selection or, in this dicey labor market, their hiring processes? Remember, the challenge here is to discover what you don’t know. You can learn from those who appear to have similar needs and from those who don’t.
What if your Operations people express a need for a new facility? Are you looking for space where you currently are, or are you looking for space where the labor market can better support that operation? Are you asking your brokers and site selection experts about the area’s potential for hiring and retention?
And what about your geographic reach? Are you putting out today’s fire of immediate need or are you asking strategically about where you need to be tomorrow? Have you considered the opportunities waiting for you in growth markets, and evaluated how such markets stack up to your current location?
Once you’ve laid the foundation for new and possible strategic initiatives, the trial-and-error phase begins. With an open mind, bring any new ideas you have uncovered back to your team of inside and outside partners, ask them about any discoveries they’ve made on their own and evaluate your discoveries. Ask them how they think these new ideas will work. Test all hypotheses in this manner to see what’s viable for your company.
Certainly, not every idea you uncover will work for your organization, your goals or your culture. But once more, you won’t know until you ask.
Such broad-based groundwork will add credibility to your forecasting and help you quantify the vision. Once there’s agreement and the testing is done, you can launch into the financials and an in-depth cost/benefit analysis.
And that will form the basis of our next column.
Chair, IAMC Board of Directors