Back in January, I penned "The Digital Natives are Restless", and referenced the US Air Force white paper On Learning: the Future of Air Force Education and Training. With the turmoil we are facing in the depression/recession and in our businesses, it might be hard to focus on the future when we are trying to just survive today. However, if a company is going to thrive when the recovery comes, some focus must be retained on the future.
The following items are paraphrased and annotated from the Air Force white paper as the "imperatives" for the future:
- Common vision
- Strategic implementation plan
- Systematic approach
- Enterprise-wide architecture
- Investment strategy
- Commitment to ‘start now'
A common vision is required to align the efforts of the various constituencies. It requires leadership and discipline to define the vision and share it across the organization, to your suppliers, as well as to your customers. It is the basis for transformation.
A vision without a plan is merely a dream. A strategic implementation plan needs to contain the essential elements to align the leadership to the vision and to inform them of their responsibilities for delivery.
Many visions fail to deliver results, as they just apply band-aids to sucking chest wounds in order to meet quarterly numbers. A systematic approach is required to making the tough decisions to implement the changes required to transform the company and come out of this maelstrom better positioned to compete.
An enterprise-wide architecture is required to establish and implement standards and to ensure compliance. Often, companies that grow by acquisition become a Tower of Babel, with a lack of common definitions, complex integrations, systems that are old enough to vote, and an inflexible technology architecture.
Without an investment strategy, nothing significant is possible. Failure to invest in the future is investing in your competitor's future at worst, and prolongs your own recovery.
Although the Air Force document describes integration between operations and training as its focus, integration internally and externally is increasingly critical for businesses to optimize performance.
The commitment to start now... how often have we been overburdened by the pressures of today that we have missed the knock at the door from opportunity? Decide what you can stop doing so that you can free up resources to prepare for your success tomorrow.
The Air Force is a major institution with sometimes conflicting roles, missions, priorities, budget limitations, personal ambitions, training and education needs, resource challenges, demanding customers, and tough competitors. Sound like any organization you know? What are your imperatives for the future?