WANTED: One Fresh Vision for Australia Instead of Soup Kitchen

Brave_new_worldRecently, Richard Goyder, Chief of Wesfarmers, one of the Olympic gods at G20 to those who care and Mr Puzzled to the rest of us,  cried “In January I left Davos feeling really good about the world, having been there for a week and people were talking up the US economy, being pretty satisfied where Europe was and satisfied where the rest of the world was, and I’ve come back to Australia to incredibly pessimistic sentiment and I can’t reconcile the two, to be frank”.

Well, it could be the thin high altitude air of Davos, or the luxury of Swiss premium hospitality, or the rush to the head at meeting all the ‘celebrities’ who can certainly be positive about their own futures, provided there is enough security about. But I am not satisfied with where the rest of the world is. Mr Goyder is either a naive optimist, which I doubt very much, or his feet haven’t yet touched the ground.

ACDC were wrong! The problem is not “the long way to the top”. It’s the way between the top to the bottom, where people are losing jobs in droves and can’t do Jack squat about it, because they have no say in strategy, investment or plain decisions, that is the long, seemingly insurmountable way for Australian business to dig itself out of the deepening hole.

We need to focus on the future. The Future is here. It just needs to be imagined and “told”.

We are all in the same boat. No, not that boat. The problems facing Australian people are interconnected – manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, energy, small business, unions, political parties. All these sectors are equally facing the crisis of irrelevance to their current and potential customers – globally … Unless we have a plan and an Australian Business Model for purposeful innovation, competitiveness and growth.

There is no ONE-fits-all solution but, as hell, there is a need for ONE VISION for Australia and ONE Vision for every business.

Every business, start-up, small or large, needs to have and leverage its Vision, i.e. the shared purpose. Clarity of what is to be achieved and why, along with simple rules of the game – a decision framework – enables people in an organisation to fully engage their talent, make better decision, adapt and act on opportunities faster and actively drive success. Vision enables business to WIN consistently!

On country level Australia must develop a long-term economic and social Vision. We urgently need far-reaching goals in order to leverage our most valuable competitive advantages as a country to effectively compete in global markets and to ensure smart investment in infrastructure, education and social services, and to ensure future food and resources security for our citizens.

Here is a take on things in three.

1. Soup Kitchen Strategy:

The Government clearly doesn’t have a vision for a prosperous future for Australia – if it had, it would have had policies and programs ready on Day 1 in the seat. Two ministries, after SIX months in power, called for submissions of ideas to ‘secure a competitive future’ for industries in their portfolios. InnoFuture offered a strategic Framework, ready to use and get things done fast. But no one invited a consultation and it has been another SIX months without plan or action.

Then, there is the raised, shaking fist: ‘no more handouts, business must take responsibility for being profitable’. But simultaneously, the other hand keeps dipping into the pocket, handing out lollies, without a forward vision to leverage these handouts as a ‘long tail’ for creating ongoing economic value.

This is a ‘soup kitchen’ strategy. I have the news for our Leaders: you are not the guy who multiplied fish and turned water into wine. Eventually, fish will run out unless you start fostering excellence in fishing.

2. Leadership Crisis:

We love big business in Australia. Big implies power. But Big business is failing us, big time. In a socially-dwarfed, bully-like manner, multinationals have blamed their failure to provide job security to thousands of Australians, on everything else, except their own lack of foresight and leadership to invest in innovation; or to use their privileged position to work with the Government on strategic and socially responsible policies. It’s all about ‘grab and run’.

Recent study by Melbourne University found that “a staggering 75% of employees report that Australian workplaces need better managers and leaders.”  It also confirmed that “many managers lack a number of critical technical and people skills that undermine their capacity to maximise productivity.”

What is the chance that these leaders are capable of developing a smart workforce to grow value-add economy?

3.  Home Grown Success with Global Outlook:

Australia needs to change its ‘business model’ to growing excellence and success in the Small Business sector. This is where our future needs to be, or we are going to lose national manufacturing, resources, food and even environment security.

I agree with a Melbourne University Professor, Peter Gahan that “there is the challenge here: how can government induce business owners to take steps to improve the management capability and leadership in SMEs?”

The last thing we want is to send everybody immediately to do an MBA degree. But a mass re-education of SME Leaders is MISSION CRITICAL if we want to have a prosperous and secure future for this country. Only enlightened Leaders, with clarity of a long-term strategy, can effectively innovate and build smart workforce to compete not just globally but to defend their position locally against the inroads of foreign competition vying for our valuable resources.

Enough idle talk. We need action.

Action 1: Government: Immediately educate Leaders in basic understanding of what it takes to build business foundations for Competitive Impact – to create Awareness of what our business Leaders don’t know.

Action 2: Government and Every Business: Have a kick-ass, uncompromising Vision and make it a shared one!

The brave new world starts with one small step: Vision!