On Wednesday, 20 January, US president-elect Joe Biden officially assumes his office, an inauguration ceremony that sitting President Donald Trump has made clear he is skipping. Trump will be the first president in a century and a half to be absent from the inauguration of his successor.
In the Philippines, legislators and members of the UP community are up in arms over the cancellation of the agreement between the University of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense that prevented any military or police operations within the state university without prior notice to university officials.
On the COVID-19 front, the vaccine rollout continues and Israel, world leader in the vaccination sprint which has inoculated over 2 million of the 9.7 million population, has announced a deal with Pfizer that trades medical information for continued availability of the vaccine. The deal has received both praise and criticism.
Last week, the Philippines Food and Drug Administration issued emergency use approval (EUA) for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the first approval issued in the country. The country expects its first delivery of the Pfizer vaccine within the first quarter of the year. Other vaccines with pending applications are those from AstraZeneca, Sinovac and Gamaleya. Carlito Galvez, who is on top of vaccine procurement, has also announced that supply deals have been firmed up with many other firms, including Moderna, Novavax, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
Closer to home, I have been spending much of my personal time catching up on the animated series, Attack on Titan.
For many companies, especially those that are sales led, this last half of January is often the season for kickoffs. These events are generally meant to ensure a good beginning to the year. The typical schedule includes a review of the year just ended and a situation analysis to ground the plans for the year. When the kickoffs extend to a whole day or even a weekend, the schedule also often includes opportunities for bonding and learning. These bonding and learning activities are usually rooted in the situation analysis and related to corporate goals.
This year, the pandemic kickoffs will especially be problematic. First, quarantine requirements will make it difficult to run the normal face-to-face activities. And the social activities will certainly be a challenge to pull off with the social distancing requirements. But beyond even the quarantine and social distancing imperatives, the kickoffs this year face the challenge of our current unique situation.
Much of what happened in 2020 can be traced to effects of the pandemic and the quarantine response. Certainly, some of the things we learned will continue to be helpful at least in the next few months, and potentially until next year depending on how immunization for COVID-19 progresses. However, key to a successful 2021 will be the ability to respond to the changes expected from continued easing of restrictions. Compounding the expected complexity of the situation is anticipation of the 2022 national elections, which will include election for the two highest offices in the land.
What all of this means is that the next two years will be years of change, and potentially great change. It seems clear that 2021 will require vigilance and the ability to respond quickly and wisely. For those who must develop corporate strategy, the challenge continues to be the determination of direction.
In strategy class, we always say that strategy begins with determining the goal. However, it is also clear that the goal is dependent on our reading of the future. Some trends, such as digital payments and e-commerce, are clearly here to stay and, for the most part, we ignore them at our peril. That is the easy bit. The difficulties begin with the uncertain.
The facile answer is that the trick is to be flexible. Unfortunately, flexibility can mean many things, and is often expensive. Let us take one element of flexibility—volume of demand. The challenge to responding to demand involves supply and logistics. If you are a manufacturer, the ability to respond to demand variability relies on your ability to reduce or ramp up production in response to demand. But there are practical limitations to this. Factories have a maximum output potential and even when there is no production, certain fixed expenses must be met. Similar challenges face even service or trading companies.
The reality is that corporate strategy is essentially about taking a position, making decisions that lay down some long-term fundamentals for the company—its business model, if you will. Some business models are more flexible than others, but every business model takes a position on a few basic things. This is how corporate leadership provide direction for the rest of the organization.
Once that direction is set, then team members can begin to set their individual goals in support of the larger goals of the organization.
Similar activities occur on the individual front. The first month of the year is often about a re-examining of direction and either an affirmation of the current path or a commitment to change things.
At the individual level, some things seem to be obvious. Health and fitness seem like no-brainer goals. The challenge, as ever, is competition for resources. At the individual level, the resource challenge often revolves around two factors: time and money.
Some decisions can be made easy. First, separate goals from activity or attention. Some goals can be accomplished through delegation or outsourcing. For example, if I want to eat healthy, I do not have to personally cook health food. However, exercise is something that requires personal time and attention. This means you can set up goals without allocating much personal time.
Second, invest in being able. For corporations, this means developing core competencies and investing in key assets. For individuals, especially those in the early phases of a career, my advice has always been to focus on skills and relationships. The reality is that success, and the money and the ability to release personal time that comes with it, will most often rely on your ability to get things done. Your skills and your relationships are the assets that you bring with you as you move from company to company, whether you are an employee or an entrepreneur.
Finally, make choices. At the heart of every strategy, whether corporate or individual, is choices. In corporate strategy class, we always say that choices mean trade-offs. All this means is that saying yes to some goals means that we say no to many others.
In Attack on Titan, one of the characters, Armin, ruminates on a particular question each time he must make a particularly difficult choice “a person who cannot give up anything can change nothing.”
That, ultimately, is what goals are about. They are about giving up the less desirable in to attain the larger goal. They are about accepting that reaching for the horizon often means giving up the familiar.
Readers can email Maya at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit her site at http://integrations.tumblr.com.