Management in the 1990s - Strategic Management

The first study was undertaken in the UK, although the research base was European. Its conclusions were echoed by a less rigorous but similar study in the USA. Both were based on market research-style methods, with interviews conducted with key managers from organisations which had already started to experience the new trends. From these interviews it was possible to present a form of scenario about the main challenges. The UK study claims to provide insight rather than a prescriptive picture of the future. What results from considering all this evidence is a coherent picture of at least a major element of difference between managing through the 1980s and managing in the 1990s and beyond.

Although comparable research may not be available for other countries, it is reasonable to suggest that results can be extrapolated outside of the research area, although with caution. This is because many of the triggers for change are of a global nature. The landmark UK study was Barham et al., 10 carried out in 1988. This was later expanded by Barham and Bassam in 1989, 11 and it is from this latter reference that this summary is drawn. The research identified a number of factors or pressures which the respondents saw as critical for the future: Intensifying of competition This was seen as a continuing trend, with pressure coming from two main sources.

First there is the continuing trend for many industries to become more global, which not only brings new competitors into play, but also changes the critical success factors of the industries concerned. The second source is the continuing merging of competition, as companies in related industries changed their boundaries: for example building societies moving into retail banking. Both sources cause discontinuities, and neither is expected to abate. Information technology The effective management of IT is seen as an important factor for the 1990s. The authors also cite the problem of managers whose uncertainty is increased because they now have too much information, but insufficient time to enable them to use it. ‘City’ pressures Tension between the short-term requirements of investors and the long-term needs of the business is seen as an unfortunate reality today and in the future.

Organisations to become more dynamic As a response to competitive pressures, organisations will be more dynamic. Expectations include decentralised structures, managers at all levels to take more responsibility, more entrepreneurial organisations, and mechanisms such as task force management.

Market focus Organisations will be more market focused, with segmentation becoming even more critical. In response to pressures, organisations will also become more customer driven. Relationship building is critical, and service will increasingly be seen as part of the product. There will be a greater need for innovation. Quality Total quality management becomes obligatory, and is driven as much by customer demands as by the will of the organisation itself. Speed of product development As product life cycles shorten, the need to speed up product development increases Acquisitions Acquisitions continue to be a key element in corporate strategies, now frequently triggered by the need to become more global.

These findings have many similarities with those of Sullivan whose research was undertaken in 1989. The findings related to the USA, and were classified as business forces and the trends in organisational response. In Exhibit, the findings of the two studies have been combined. As well as illustrating the outcomes of studies of the future, this table offers information which is of interest to any one concerned with strategic management. The next example is something which fits the image of a futures study.

Trends which affect management

It used thematic, trend and impact analysis, and sequential logic, resulting in a number of scenarios showing the new order of nations in the year 2010. Assumptions are clearly stated. The study is by C. W. Taylor13 and was published in 1992, written on behalf of the Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College. Some elements of the study deal with military issues. Of wider interest are the first chapters that deal with world international order, world population, world interdependence and socio-political change, and world technological issues. In fact some of the forecasts which support the scenarios go beyond 2010 to 2025. It contains worrying forecasts, such as the proportion of world population in developed countries falling from 23 per cent in 1991 to 16 per cent by 2025.

Taylor provides a view of the world of the future which is of considerable interest, particularly to those following a global strategy. By 2025 he suggests the pattern of population .The book provides a coherent scenario against which plans could be made, the above figures being a tiny extract in summary form. There is no guarantee that its predictions will come true, and certainly other scenarios could be developed.

Percentage-of-world population by stage of development

Another example was published by the Royal Institute of International Affairs. It offers three scenarios to 2015, which it terms ‘postcards from the future’, which dwell chiefly on the concerns of the industrialized world. The three scenarios deal with the social, political and economic consequences of different rates of change and turbulence. Although none would claim to be a forecast of what will happen, they show three ways in which the world could develop, and therefore are very useful as a basis for strategic thinking.


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