The meaning of “the present” varies depending on perspectives, capabilities and goals. These are factors that accumulate within organizations, and which are not always under explicit management control. For example, you can't legislate for how your customers regard your competitiveness, though you can influence their experiences and attitudes. Your organization's roots and history will help to define its comfort zone as well as determining its stock of evolved capabilities.
Individual opinion leaders – who are not necessarily one and the same as the top management – set the organization's agenda and steer its attention. While we all engage in a common industry, there's a level at which we all live on different planets.
There are many ways of characterizing organizations, but for our purposes we can consider one master driver as the key to confident engagement with the future capacity for change. By capacity for change I mean attitudes to change as well as change management disciplines (cultures that reward positive change as well as processes) that securely deliver change.
Generally, organizations that apply a steady measure of rational attention to their capabilities and goals are also adept at managing change – and these virtues tend to generate a culture that promotes and realizes positive change. So, wherever and whatever you are today, if you have the means to reflect on what you're doing and how you're doing it, you're ready to shape a future that suits you. Reason and action give you power over the future.
The Personal Journey
We're all interested in global effects, but if we're honest we're more interested in ourselves. What does the future hold for me? How can I make it work for me? How can I survive and thrive amid the coming changes? What do demographic, technological, environmental, political and industrial changes mean for me, my career, my family, and my well-being?
If how we react to the future makes the future, then the more we can think through the implications of predictions, the better shape we'll be in. However, this isn't how people normally deal with the future. Instead of questioning their own reactions, and exploring what their options are, they look for reassurances that an outcome will or will not occur. They externalise the future rather than taking responsibility.
Taking responsibility for the future isn't intuitive. We're used to the idea that stuff happens – that we're victims or beneficiaries of events. The more complex our world grows, the harder it is to believe that we can control it. Yet control it we do. We influence what happens around us, and we're completely responsible for our own actions.
I believe this is one area where an insurance industry mindset can be an obstacle. An industry founded on the pooling of risk and the valuing of outcomes can act as though the future is already written, and that it's delivered to us rather than created by us.
Being Part of the Movement
Since what people don't do is just as important, and sometimes more important, than what they do in shaping the future, we need to find ways of making sure that everyone who can contribute to a positive future is productively engaged. We need to share our vision, explain the drivers and our assessments of them, and suggest the roles and responses we want others to take. Articulating the future for the stakeholders we work with is a vital part of ensuring that future comes about.
ACORD community is positive about the future and committed to making the kinds
of changes that will benefit everyone in the industry. But I know that none of
us meets with total and immediate comprehension and support from everyone whose
help we need to evolve the industry. It's especially frustrating because our
intentions are benign: we're in the unusual position of selling a proposition
that benefits everyone and disadvantages no one.
standards lead to a win-to-the-power-N situation. That's not something you hear
every day, so people who hear the message can understandably wonder if they've
heard right, or whether there's a hidden agenda somewhere. For the record,
ACORD has no agenda other than the all-round improvement of the insurance
industry's business capability. But how do you persuade your peers and
co-workers that implementing
standards – and taking standards farther and deeper into their business
processes – is one of the key ways in which they can command the future?
ACORD Standards have found that often the best way to lead change is to start small, and
increment in small bites. A big vision isn't turned into reality in one step,
or one day. Once you've painted a picture of the future, you still need to take
all the actions required to turn the picture into reality. For this reason, we
don't construct generic business cases for standards adoption – though we do
provide tools to help people create specific business cases. We often find that
the greatest immediate benefits of implementing standards come with tactical applications.
So, for example, a company looking to implement a new process can use the relevant standards rather than design their own solution – simply because the standard exists, is proven, and is actionable. The company saves time and money with this one decision. This is a great example of the industry's investment in standards paying back to the community in a quiet but measurable way.
For many standards implementers in this kind of situation, there's no grand vision of standards adoption at work. Nevertheless, any use of standards at the tactical level opens the door to greater benefits. Standards-enabled point solutions create organizational learning and habituate developers to using standards rather than inventing their own solutions.
As the practice spreads through imitation and competition – with standards-based projects delivering faster time to market and return on investment – the use of standards comes to form an operational capability of the organization. The organization evolves, if you will, a new ability to respond to its environment by practicing the use of standards and noting its success with standards-enabled projects. In the process the organization becomes easier to do business with, more available for collaboration with business partners, and better positioned for entry into new markets.
Taking personal ownership of the
future, and doing your part to bring people along with
you, is the sure way to a prosperous future we can all share in.