In the past twenty years we have seen continuous emphasis in the United States on human rights, equal opportunities, and improved standards of living so that more people may enjoy better lives. Workers of all kinds are looking for more challenge and opportunity and materially richer and more comfortable lives, including more recreation and travel. At the same time, business and government strive to maintain prosperity and increase production while meeting problems of growing population, inflation, food distribution, diminishing resources, environmental concerns, and accelerating competition for world markets. Global competition, human resources re-engineering, staff hiring moratoria, and spending restrictions are a few of the problems that face tomorrow's managers.
With parts, supplies, and produce coming from all over the world, any narrow provincialism in American business management is a thing of the past. Even in supermarkets, for example, grapes come from Chile, oranges from Israel, oysters from Korea, and sardines from Norway. Manufacturers have assembly plants in Mexico, Spain, and the Far East. Firms are expanding into Brazil, China, and many other countries as they seek new markets.
Business schools play up globalism by adding new courses in internationalism to their curricula. Titles of new courses added for M.B.A.s include The Environment of International Business, Focusing on World Problems, and Doing Business Abroad. Finance courses consider problems in foreign trade. Fluctuations between the U.S. dollar and foreign currencies can cost corporations millions of dollars. For some companies, significant parts of their total revenue now come from sales outside the United States. American management teams of the future will include foreign market surveillance experts.
Managers are spending more time on wheels and in the air. It is not unusual even for a senior officer to fly 250,000 miles and more a year, personally checking new market developments abroad and in the United States. Where will this take us in the next century, however, as businesses become more conscious of reducing their travel budgets? E-mail and teleconferencing, for certain. This means senior executives will constantly be honing their remote telecommunication skills in finding innovative, effective, and cost-efficient means of instantaneous communication across vast distances.
Maintaining contact with new ventures in an expanding world market requires a strong commitment from management that, in the final analysis, is responsible to customers and stockholders. Of course, senior officers must be able to depend on other managers' eyes and ears because they cannot spend much time traveling to make firsthand contacts. However, as corporations spread throughout the world, it becomes harder to coordinate information from the different branches. Fortunately, computers help to retain and digest information coming from these many sources, but business experts expect new types of organization with more independent profit centers and local accountability in order to create more of a community feeling. Corporations will organize into smaller operating units. Telecommunication among the units, and between the units and the parent company, will facilitate this type of organization. Tomorrow's managers will break with many management practices that have been accepted for decades and develop new ones to meet the needs of the time. The tempo of world events will not permit managers to control affairs primarily from reports and financial statements passed to them by line personnel and lower levels of management. Tomorrow's managers must keep in closer touch with events and people because things are moving too fast and there is too much competition out there.
The aging of the baby boom generation is creating another form of competition-a bottleneck of employees in their thirties and forties who are ready to move into middle and upper management. Workers between the ages of thirty-five and fifty-four will account for 49 percent of the labor force by the year 2000. This increases competition for management jobs and is likely to keep somewhat older managers in supervisory positions longer. Chances for younger people to move into management will be limited.
In addition, as some companies extend retirement age above sixty-five years, older managers may remain in jobs longer. This tendency will also limit promotion opportunities for those eager to move up the corporate ladder. However, this pattern is somewhat counteracted by a trend among managers in their late fifties and early sixties to retire early.
The decline in the number of people between twenty and twenty-five should offer more options for those entering business. In addition, the number in this group will continue to decline for a decade. Thus entry into college, graduate schools, and management training courses will probably be easier than it was a decade ago.
Microcomputers are among the most startling inventions of the last decades of the twentieth century. They have grown from a specialized piece of machinery to standard office equipment in fewer than ten years. Most graduate management programs now require students to own a personal computer as an admission requirement.
Today's and tomorrow's manager must be completely comfortable operating a personal computer. Whether a manager is engaged in financial analysis, record keeping, budgeting, communications, or specialized activities related to a specific industry, that work will probably be done on a computer. The increasingly widespread use of computers also continues to create opportunities for computer programmers and analysts. Information technology is among the fastest growing professions. Financial services houses hire top-notch programmers to deliver systems that best maintain and manipulate the integrity of their data, especially for forecasts; medical science relies heavily on computers to sort data; inventory and customer service systems are required to determine consumer trends throughout the globe; the Internet has changed the way people do business, and this has necessitated an explosion in interactive software development. These and a hundred other industries have made the computer industry a gold mine for the best programmers and entrepreneurs, a phenomenon that is here to stay.
DIVERSIFICATION AND EXPANSION
Progress is a law of economic life. When a firm ceases to progress, it starts to fall back. Competition is so keen that if a company stops progressing for even a short time, it may never catch up again. New products, new services, and new production methods evolve almost daily. New products and businesses appear, and others, having become obsolete, quietly disappear. A large percentage of what is sold in supermarkets today was practically unheard of a couple of decades ago.
No manager is valuable to a company's success unless he or she can help that company move ahead and progress. Sometimes this progress involves diversification of product and expansion, even into foreign markets. At other times, it means retracting, getting rid of declining products and ineffective personnel-what in nautical terms is called "trimming the sails." Tomorrow's managers must be even more expert at making changes than today's because the rate of change in business organization, product distribution, and technology is accelerating. The manager who becomes bogged down in routine is courting disaster. There are raiders out there who sense when an organization is faltering and will close in for a takeover "kill." A company must progress at all levels in order to survive successfully in today's competitive market.
At the line level, supervisors must be alert to production changes; at the middle-management level, managers must be quick to facilitate changes developed at the top; and at the senior management level, executives must develop new ideas and courses of action for building new lines, expanding active ones, and getting a fair share of the market.
THE ACTUALIZING ORGANIZATION
To provide a creative environment for tomorrow's employees, managers need to consider such guidelines as the following:
- Provide review and goal-setting sessions at all levels of the organization.
- Get information input from the grass-root levels-clerical and plant production.
- Use matrix-mix employee teams for review and problem-solving sessions.
- Strive for an interaction of good minds in the organization.
- Encourage individuality and creativity among employees. Affirm the worth of the individual.
- Encourage self-actualization among employees.
- Think of product and profit growth as the result of people and process growth.
- See profit as a means of maintaining a healthy, progressive organization and not as an end in itself.
- Assume social responsibility, locally and abroad, whenever practical opportunities present themselves. Take a global view.
- Clarify the philosophical base from which the company's managers function.
- Discourage "status gaps" in the organization.
- Assign responsibility on the basis of competence rather than status.
- Recognize that management's integrity is essential to a company's long-range success.
- Experiment with in-house mentor and sponsorship programs.
- Regard information as a commodity like iron or steel. It can be used to reinforce the structure of the organization.
- Recognize that good communication, like finance and production, is an underpinning of a strong company.
THE ACTUALIZING EXECUTIVE
The actualizing executive has these qualities:
- Sets flexible goals and objectives so that when new circumstances dictate a change it can be made.
- Is a whole person with compassion for humanity.
- Is challenged to high levels of performance.
- Can visualize the way things should be and prepares for the future, even when ahead of the time.
- Welcomes intellectual conflict as a sign of thinking interest.
- Respects opinions of colleagues and subordinates, realizing that progress is usually the fruit of thought-and labor.
- Tries to eliminate status gaps so that employees can communicate constructively regardless of job titles. Encourages friendly informality.
- Sets up situations that develop and release human initiative in the organization.
- Recognizes the importance of the profit motive but does not consider it to be an end to which all human values must be sacrificed.
- Practices positive reinforcement by recognizing good performance more often than disciplining employees for poor performance.
- Recognizes risk as an important ingredient in growth and innovation.
- Communicates up, down, and across organizational lines.
- Recognizes that the quality of an organization can be no better than the minds of its managers.
- Recognizes physical fitness as an important part of mental health.
Today, organizations are more concerned about their impact on the physical environment than in the past. Concern about the environment will be even greater in the future because of an increasing awareness that our planet's ecology is fragile.
Some of the ecological controls now in effect are hard to implement, such as the recall of thousands of cars to replace emission controls. Tomorrow's managers must be ready to combat such problems because business organizations care about their social image as well as their social responsibilities. Many companies spend a great deal of money on institutional advertising and image enhancement. A company with a good reputation for quality products, good service, and fair prices is, understandably, eager to protect it.
PREPARING FOR TOMORROW
The environment in which tomorrow's managers function, will probably include some of the following challenges:
- More creative, high-tech management practices
- More demanding, well educated, articulate employees
- An unsettled political and world environment with international conflicts
- Early obsolescence
- Economic volatility
- Ever-growing technology demands
- Diversity in the workplace and world community
Everything that happens anywhere in the world has an impact on us. It will be no small challenge for managers to stay on top of the happenings and to anticipate their impact. Management is a very demanding profession, but the potential rewards are rich, and to participate from the front lines of leadership can be exciting and fulfilling.
Arnold Toynbee, world-renowned philosopher, historian, and writer, reminds us that of twenty-one past great civilizations, nine-teen crumbled from within; only two were conquered from without. Many believe that our civilization is crumbling. All forces, including business, government and educators must unite to keep our society strong and healthy despite the complex problems we face today. Managers at every level and in every type of organization should think about their impact on society and the economy. They must try, for example, to understand the impact their products have on civilization.
Tomorrow's business manager has an opportunity to be an influence for world good. Profit must not be the main incentive. The world has shrunk too much for that-and it's extremely crowded! There are other important needs besides profit, other things that need attention from the people who are trained to organize, administer, and manage. The challenge for tomorrow's manager includes the responsibility to produce goods and services that benefit civilization without harming the environment that supports it.