Leading the Future

An essential characteristic of leadership is having the vision and courage to look toward the future and set a course of action toward success tomorrow. We all know that new technologies, shifts in public policy, and evolving customer expectations are driving electric utilities to embrace a different way of doing business.

The long-term success of the electric utilities will depend on our ability to make accurate predictions about what lies ahead and create viable options to continue to provide value to our customers. We must honour the past, understand the values that carried us forward, and respect those who crafted the groundwork from which we will build our future. We are not immune to a fast-changing world and having a vigorous dialogue about what our industry will look like 5 to 10 years from now is important in deciding what actions to take to help invent that future.

As leaders, we cannot invest in future success alone. Daily, we need the collective wisdom of our employees who are engaged with technology, our customers who we provide value to and the policies that guide our operations.

The world is changing with competition ready to disrupt our markets. Companies in fast-changing markets are generally better at adapting to changing business conditions. But even companies that have been successful in a fairly stable environment for a long time must remain focused on the fundamentals to stay competitive.

A real opportunity for leadership is to embrace change and engender the support of others, even when change may mean facing difficult challenges.  In strategy development, we should engage the broadest practical level of participation, so that when it’s time to act, people support the effort. Seeking long-term results requires dedication and courage. With any comprehensive change, we must communicate relentlessly, even after the fact. The result is a clear strategic vision and the ability to take action before being compelled to do so. Innovation, by its nature, is disruptive. Sometimes it appears in a long, sustaining manner, allowing everyone to adapt, occasionally the disruption changes the market or the way people think about and use your product. Consider three points to guide adaptation to change in a rapidly changing environment.


  1. Understand your Current Situation

Start by analysing your organisation’s performance, identifying the obstacles that your company currently faces, and how you are addressing those, what resources are at your disposal and how can your organisation leverage those to deliver greater value. If you are unable to answer questions like these, you should begin immediately to “do your homework,” for you are in a prime position to be overwhelmed by unexpected forces of change.

We all get bogged down with our day to day tasks, but it is important to periodically take a moment to be forward-thinking and broaden your sources of information to explore new ideas. While you are gathering information, try to spot the trends which may be signaling change on the horizon. Look for seemingly isolated facts that may “fit together” like the pieces of a puzzle. When you think you have spotted a trend, you should investigate it in further detail. Don’t just react to change; anticipate and prepare for it.


  1. Understanding Change

Confidence comes from understanding, so an important step toward harnessing change is understanding it: what is happening, why, how and what must be done in response.

Flexibility and a willingness to embrace change will ensure your organisation can reliably deal with many different opportunities and circumstances. You may not like all the changes that are occurring, but you can be sure that if you resist them, your company will not prosper as competition and technology are constantly combining to force top management to re-evaluate company operations.

When you recognise the possibilities created by change, you’re more prepared to exploit them. You will find change as not something to fear, but as something to welcome and turn to your own advantage.


  1. Empower your Employees

Adapting to change frequently requires the effective use of a multitude of skills. It is important to foster an environment that rewards and encourages skill development among employees.

Lateral moves within your organisation can help employees learn new skills, become well-rounded and have a stronger appreciation for how different departments support each other. Also beneficial are attending trade conferences when possible; reading trade magazines technical manuals or research papers; refresher training or courses and joining professional associations.

This is the one of the most important tips for adapting to change, because it places your employees ahead of the curve: anticipating change and implementing it before many people think to adapt. The bottom line is, the more your employees know and the more current their skills and ability to apply them effectively, the more valuable they can provide to your organisation’s overall future vision.

While the exact course and timing of the change are unclear, many would agree that a decade from now the electric power industry will look much different. Because electric utilities are trustees of essential infrastructure—the power grid and electricity services—the business model must be sustainable, nimble, and efficient.

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