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Times Are Great – Time To Change!

I was sitting in a board meeting of a very successful organization a couple of weeks ago as the group pondered a review and revisiting of its strategic plan. What was interesting was that this organization – from a financial and effectiveness standpoint – is probably at its zenith. Yet, there was general concern that it might have become too tied to the past, and that its structure and mode of doing business needed updating.

Some of the changes discussed were subtle; some were paradigm shifting. But, regardless of whether changes in direction are to be minor or major, there was a general understanding that what got them to the level of success they enjoy today might not get them to where they want to be in 10 years.

The bottom line is that implementing change is easy when things are tough; it’s a lot more difficult to do when times are good. Livestock production, in particular, is a profession where producers excel at seeking and capitalizing on opportunities in the short term. But, we’re still largely ruled by a commodity mindset, where staying competitive with others in our segment is our biggest concern.

This mindset leads to incredible incremental improvements in performance, but essentially we’re just doing the same thing but doing it better. It doesn’t position operations for the long term. Blockbuster Video, for instance, illustrates how an enterprise that was once the dominant movie rental company in the U.S., was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection largely because it failed to foresee and react to consumers’ changing media habits.

Similarly, I believe we are great at the day-to-day management of our business, but most of us don’t spend enough time looking at the big picture. Certainly, there are times when we see and accept the need for change, but just elect not to put forth the effort. More often than not, however, our failure to enact change is purely because we haven’t anticipated the need to do so.

Unlike some sectors of the economy – the auto and financial industries, for instance – the government won’t come to your rescue if the bottom falls out. Sure, everything looks great for the meat complex – a growing world population will have to eat, we produce a great product that consumers want – but not every producer will benefit from these opportunities.

Thus, we all have tough questions to answer for ourselves – what will my genetics, management and marketing have to look like in 10 years if I’m going to be successful? In what kind of a business environment will I compete? And what can I do to help ensure that the environment is conducive to my success?