I believe we all strategize from time to time, be it on paper or in the mind. We cannot afford to ignore the future, although we must be sure to live in the present. As a family, we often decide that the time to buy a house or to plan to add to our family is coming up in 4 to 5 years. Maybe it is time to sell the old car and look for a bigger, more dependable ride. The same principal applies to our home business, going on holidays, expanding or upgrading property etc.
Being in the corporate world all my working life, I have gotten quite used to these strategy sessions coming up from time to time. This time though, I let go of all the structured thought processes and prescribed guideline of what to strategize about, and what not. Somehow, most companies have this ingrained thought that everybody has to move off-site for a weekend in the bush, or at some nearby lodge. It seems the CEO and his flock think that us, normal plebs, cannot think during work time. They reason that we are not to be interrupted and need a clear mind, devout of any usual distractions. Good idea, bad reasoning. Get there on the Friday evening, partner less and thirsty. First off is a braai and a few drinks; drinks last till 2 AM and everybody can hear Mary and Paul having a go at each other through the mosquito screen windows…
So now it is Saturday morning, most delegates have a headache and Mary and Paul seem to have gone missing in action. CEO steps up and gives us until lunch to each come up with strategic points of how and where we see the company in the next five years. He suggests we can do it in groups of four, while I scamper off to the river on my own; don’t need an input nor a rejection from this overhung crowd.
How do I see the country panning out in 5 years’ time? There are always little everyday things that spur my hope, just as there are major depressing factors our government push down our throats. Today though, I cannot be home; I am forced to hang out with people I work with every day – most of which I cannot connect with. I allow my thoughts of the future to go a bit hazy and very much negative.
If I was 30 odd, planning a family and maybe thinking to buy a house – would I do it here? Would I feel that the country’s outlook over the not too distant future, gives me confidence to let my kids go to school? Would I feel safe in my fort Knox; would I not have to worry about my beautiful wife travelling the highways and byways of this land? Would I stand in line with a smile to obtain my renewed drivers licence, query my utility account or question my SARS debt? Would it ease my stress to do this in NZ, AUS or Canada?
Watching the water flow past, I see the sun reflecting on a fish. Fish - resource of note and probably the biggest natural food item consumed on earth. Yes, there are farms that breed fish, like the piggeries, chicken runs etc., pumping them full of growth hormones and other cancer inducing chemicals, but the bulk is still fast diminishing from the oceans. Where will this world be in 5 years’ time? Will it even be safe Down Under, on the poles or anywhere you can think to hide from increasing temperatures, more violent natural disasters and depletion of resources?
Lunch bell is ringing and my plan is far from set. In the session after lunch each of us is required to give a short insight into where we see the company in 5 years, with growth prospects and possible obstacles. The guys ahead of my opinion all predict a stable market, increased production due to expansion into unexplored Africa and satisfied work force from market related increases. Speaking the language the CEO and cronies want to hear. Upon my turn I view the well-known eyes upon me and sigh; keeping my statement short and simple I announce to the room my personal view of a declining market share, shrinking profit levels and a 5 year battle of survival. All of this due to rampant crime, social discomfort and stress, inept governance, corruption, rising taxation, diminishing natural resources, pillaging of forestry, world-wide food price predicament and a medical industry that makes profit from feeding us what we don’t need – but bullshits us into thinking we do. Boom.
I sit down among deathly silence, looking straight into the sexed up eyes of Mary. Despicable, disgusting female excuse of a human being; taking any opportunity to frolic in the absence of husband and children.
I have dared to challenge the corporate system for the first time in 20 years, in full attendance of the board. The CEO wanders over to my side during tea and questions my depressing outlook as well as not keeping to the “spirit of strategy”.
I was spot on; the company even suffered forced retrenchments. Not that I was ever happy about being so right.
I resigned and found a better place of work. Strategy sessions remain a pain.