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There was an interesting article in the New York Times on Feb 18: “Careers: ‘Board Doctors,’ to Supervise the Supervisors — More companies bring in experts to scrutinize effectiveness of directors, creating a growth business.” (read the article)

board_of_directors

Sadly, with all the current focus on “compliance,” I’ve come to believe that there is a critical lack of future planning on many other corporate boards around the world — Jim Carroll

The article opens with the observation: “Amid unprecedented pressure from investors, more boards are tapping outside experts so they can monitor management better and clean their own house. The legion of advisers — which some dub “board doctors” — scrutinize boards’ inner workings and prescribe cures for such ills as an entrenched chief executive, 800-page briefing books, or even a director who plays Sudoku during management presentations. The experts often enable board members to make tough choices they are too squeamish to do on their own.”

Essentially, the gist of the article boiled down to three key points:

  • boards are becoming less effective at making ‘hard decisions’
  • the result is a trend in which there is more outside (hired) scrutiny of the effectiveness of board performance
  • the scrutiny adds in assessment of the effectiveness of individual board members

In an amusing point, the article comments on one director who was known to regularly play Sudoku during board meetings.

The article is a good read, and a great outline of some of the problems facing the world of corporate governance today. But from my perspective, it missed a key point that I’ve been raising in many of my sessions with Boards through the years — most boards are not structured to deal with issues of future strategic direction.

If you understand how boards work, there are two key issues:

  • it’s a very insular club ; still, globally, very much an ‘old boys network’ (although gender diversity is a key issue that many national Director associations are working hard to solve)
  • the board ‘skills matrix’ — that is, the type of people that boards seek to recruit — generally consists of finance/accounting; legal; executive compensation; IT; human resources; and specific industry experience. Few seem to have expanded their matrix to include “future strategic insight.”

A few years ago, I thought it might be interesting to apply my skill of anticipating and outlining future trends by actively seeking involvement in a few boards. I took a director education course at the University of Rotman. It was a fascinating world to immerse myself in. Sadly, since then, I’ve had few opportunities (probably, to be honest, because I don’t network with the board world as most other folks do.)

What’s the looming crisis? I outlined this back in a post in 2007, “The Future of Governance.” Essentially, there are numerous boards who do not take on the responsibility of actively and regularly assessing trends for future threats and opportunities, and include this assessment in their evaluation of the effectivness of the CEO (which is one of their key responsibilities.)

I’ll repost the 2007 post in fulll below; it still makes what I believe is a useful and powerful read.

I’m not sure much has changed since I wrote it; consider, for example, the recent security/hacking issues with Sony. Should they not have had a high level Board member who would be asking tough questions as to what structure the CEO had in place to deal with an obvious looming security infrastructure challenge. You can lay the Sony debacle at the door of the CEO. You can also lay blame directly against the Board of Directors.

Have a look at the article, and then consider if the Board you participate on has a significant ‘future oriented challenge.’

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I was in Colorado Springs yesterday, as the opening keynote of the Leadership Institute for Directors for FCCServices — they’re the business services arm of the US federal Farm Credit System.

In attendance were members of the Boards of Directors for a wide variety of state and community farm credit co-ops; these folks are the backbone of the US farm lending infrastructure. The Directors are local farmers, community leaders and business executives, and hence, need to be aware of the trends impacting the local and global agricultural industries, so that they can plan accordingly, assess risk, and make sound business decisions with respect to their co-ops.

My keynote took a look at “what comes next in the agricultural sector” – it’s one of many talks I do within the industry. And agriculture is certainly subject to high velocity change: there’s rapid evolution in science (bio-crops); new markets (bio-fuel) ; rapidly changing skills; new direct to consumer market opportunities; globalization (current food production must double in the next 30 years to keep up with global population growth.) All of which could spell opportunity if approached correctly — or turmoil and challenge if ignored.

The intent of the talk — and the overall theme of the leadership conference — was to ensure that these folks have the insight to direct their organizations into the future. That’s an important and critical role for Boards; and FCC Services is an example of an organization that has made sure that the “future” is closely linked to the issue of “governance.”

I think there are too many organizations that don’t do this. Sadly, with all the current focus on “compliance,” I’ve come to believe that there is a critical lack of future planning on many other corporate boards around the world. The result is that potential risks are often ignored; then things go wrong; then the company gets sued for significant sums of money. Is this Board negligence? That’s an interesting question, isn’t it!

Here’s an example: years ago, I wrote an article indicating that one of the critical CEO/Board level issues that must be addressed had to do with network security; certainly, everyone knows that organizations should properly secure their information assets. Yet in the article, I suggested that I believe that many Boards aren’t dealing with the issue, and that it was an area ripe for future exposure, noting that: “If I were a tort lawyer, I’d be licking my lips in anticipation of the opportunities to come in the next few years.”

Boards and CEO’s should ensure — as they are required to do with financial controls — that the information assets of the organization are properly locked down. They must understand obvious future trends, and ensure that management has planned accordingly. I strongly believe this to be the next wave in Board responsibility.

Do many Boards of Directors ensure that the organization is properly preparing for the rapidity of trends? Not many. Witness the shenanigans with the TJX Group, which had its corporate network hacked and millions of credit card numbers stolen. (The company runs HomeGoods, Marshalls, A.J. Wright, Bob’s Stores and The Maxx stores; in Canada the chain consists of Winners and HomeSense.) Now comes news that a group of banks want to sue the company with respect to the issue.

I can only imagine the questions that the Board of TJX is now asking!

Currently, much of the focus of board governance has to do with “compliance” — how well are boards, and the companies they are responsible for, dealing with the new realities of the post-Enron era.

I believe that within the next decade, we will see Board responsibility quickly evolve into a new and much more complex era than simply making sure that “i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed.’ All we need are a few savvy lawyers to launch a few negligence suits against a few public companies, alleging that a Board failed to develop a plan for and respond to obvious future trends.

It’s a trend worth watching.

So I was on the phone today with the CEO of a major global organization headquartered in Canada. I’ll be opening a leadership meeting for the company in early 2013, and this was a call to begin planning for the structure of my talk.

During the call, comments by Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada about the US economic relationship came up. Clearly, this is a country that is seeing it’s share of challenge due to fast-paced challenges in it’s “special relationship” with the US.

I mentioned to the CEO that  as far back as 2009, I was already predicting that Canada would likely have challenges in selling it’s oil in the future into the US market. And many other challenges! And that it would have to re-orient its economy further away from the US and take on much more of a global view!

This was plainly evident to me back then — and look where things are today. What are serious people and politicians and everyday folk in Canada suddenly talking about that no one really took seriously just a year ago?“…a Pacific energy pipeline….”  “…. aligning more natural resources and commodities with long term Asian contracts….”    “…… a serious free trade relationship with Europe that goes beyond NAFTA.”

With that in mind, I just dug out an old post I wrote way back in 2009 that was written as a bit of a joke at the time — surmising that Canada would see many reasons to reorient it’s global economy in the future. It’s a press release written very much tongue-in-cheek. It was briefly posted to my blog. (I removed it after a short time, since I thought that many people might find it offensive. But back then, it was covered in Bourque.org and a few other breaking-Canadian-news blogs….)

I now find it remarkably prescient, though some of it is still very clearly written for fun. For example, the border wall!


Canada announces end of economic relationship with US, & a bold new strategy to 2020

Ottawa, May 14, 2009

The country of Canada today announced the end of its centuries long relationship with the United States, and a bold new seven-point “Canada Transformed!” strategy that will re-orient its economic, cultural, societal values and innovation engine towards the world economy of 2020.

“It has come to the point that we can no longer rely on the United States as a reliable economic partner,” stated Canada at a news conference. “It is time that we adopt a bold new strategy that will align our economy away from the US, and towards the growth economies of the 21st century in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. As well, we will immediately begin working to enhance our long standing relationships with reliable partner nations in Europe.”

The massive scope of the plan was not lost on Canada in the emotional conference. “We aim to reduce our role of being the largest trading partner with the United States, to becoming a marginal partner at best. We believe that this is the only right way forward.”

Bold new thinking is required Canada spoke bluntly at the news conference of the need for bold new thinking. “Our relationship with the US is one that has become, through no fault of our own, increasingly abusive. We’re honest, faithful, and do our part to provide to the relationship. We have been the largest trading partner to the United States for over a century. And yet, in return, we find ourselves taking on an increasing amount of abuse, neglect, and ever more hostile actions. We’re sad that it must come to an end, but we believe that it is time.”

Canada cited a long list of complaints and grievances, ranging from ongoing trade disputes, “downright hostile treatment” of Canadian citizens by US border guards, and increasingly aggressive use of a “Buy America” policy by state and local governments in the US — despite a promise in Ottawa by President Barak Obama that he did not believe protectionism was the right way forward.

Canada Transformed!

At the press conference, Canada announced a significant 10 year, 7 point plan, branded “Canada Transformed!”, that will re-orient it’s economy away from the United States to the AEA (Asia, Europe and Africa) markets, by the 2020, with a number of key goals:

  •  Energy & oil: Canada will invest in a massive infrastructure project that will allow it to deliver the bulk of it’s significant energy/oil resources to Asia, Europe and Africa within 5-7 years. The infrastructure project will consist of a number of significant pipeline projects that will direct Canadian oil, natural gas and other energy sources to east and west coast ports, as well as shipping and marine infrastructure, that will provide for a “ocean railway of energy” destined to the AEA countries.”Today, Canada is the largest supplier of energy to the United States. By 2020, Canada aims to provide almost no energy to the US,” noted Canada at the news conference. “We wish them well in their efforts to solve their energy crisis. We do not intend to help them any further.”
  • Food & agriculture: Global food production must double to meet world population growth, and Canadian grain, beef, pork and other producers will work to achieve an AEA target market of 90% by 2020. “Quite simply, the rest of the world beyond the US needs a stable, reliable food supplier, and Canada intends to become the leading global brand in that regard.”
  • Resources: Canada will seek investment from major Asian and mid-East sovereign wealth funds in an ambitious effort to re-orient the target markets for at least 80% of Canadian mineral commodities to AEA nations by 2015.”Quite simply, Canada has the natural resources — iron, nickel, copper, uranium and just every other type of metal — that the newly industrialized world in Asia needs. As we witness a continued declined in US economic power, particularly in the manufacturing sector, we must ensure that we pursue growth opportunities elsewhere in the world. As China re-industrializes with the economic recovery, we intend to be their partner of choice.
  • Manufacturing: Since the advent of the US-Canada free-trade agreement in 1994, Canada has shared in one of the modern world’s greatest economic successes — the highly integrated Canadian-US manufacturing network supply chain. However, the collapse of the US manufacturing sector, as well as continuous suffocation of the border flow of goods, it is clear that Canada must re-orient itself to the new realities of the 21st century.”A nation does not move forward suffering from the ongoing implementation of economic choke points,” noted Canada. “We will re-align ourselves to economies that believe the way forward is through intelligent, smart-border policies that encourage the free flow of goods and people; not a nation that has a border policy that is driven by  politics. We will immediately provide strong incentives for Canadian manufacturers to re-focus on Canadian markets, as well as the establishment of significant new markets in AEA countries. There are over 2 billion people in these markets, and but 280 million in the US.””Clearly, our future lies outside of North America, and we will align our manufacturing sector to this reality.
  • Immigration-based knowledge factories: Canada is the envy of other nations throughout the world for its’ open, welcoming culture towards new immigrants. It plans to build on this reputation by establishing itself as the world’s dominant source for high-level, specialized knowledge expertise in almost every single professional field.”We believe that we are entering the second era of off-shoring,” noted Canada, “with the next wave going far beyond customer support call centers. Nations around the world will need access to high level talent in the fields of medicine and health care, scientific research, agricultural and architectural skills, legal and professional services — and will seek to access that knowledge through the global communications networks that will dominate the economy of the 21st century” said Canada. “We will welcome global knowledge experts in every field of human endeavor to relocate to Canada, enjoy all the attributes that our nation has to offer, and provide their skills to a massive offshore groups of clients in AEA nations. In doing so, we will establish Canada as the global hub for the knowledge economy of the 21st century. Quite simply, Brand Canada will become the most widely recognized phase when it comes to the need for access to knowledge.”
  • Immediate border construction: Finally, Canada announced that it would immediately begin construction of border that would prevent unauthorized entry into Canada by US citizens. “We will immediately begin planning construction of a 4,500 mile physical border along our common frontier with the US,” noted Canada. “We increasingly view the US health care system to be in peril — within a decade, some US states will be devoting more than 60% of their GDP to health care. Clearly, many US citizens will plan to flee to Canada to take advantage of our world-class universal health care system. We must prevent this mass migration of Americans into Canada, and believe that significantly enhanced border structures are the only means of doing so.”

At the close of the news conference, Canada stated that it was taking these actions with reluctance, but with conviction that it was the right thing to do.

Nations have always achieved continued economic success by making bold leaps. We believe, given the continuing deterioration in our relationship with the US, and the ongoing and continued lack of respect that they provide to us, that it is time to move on.

Canada is the most resource rich, tolerant, energy abundant, agriculturally advanced, second largest country in the world, with a massive base of skills, energy, commodities, food, and capabilities. We intend to assert our place in the economy of the 21st century with a sense of pride, purpose, and clear direction,” said Canada at the conclusion of the press conference.

Besides that, we’re just plain nice,” said Canada, blushing, in a closing comment.

We are excited about our future, and believe that we have made the right decision at the right time for the right purpose. Canada Transformed! will see our nation emerge as one of the leading economies on the world stage by 2020, and we embark on this voyage with a sense of courage, enthusiasm, and certainty as to its’ impact.”

The United States was not immediately available for comment.

Earlier this month, I was down in Amarillo, Texas, where I was the opening keynote speaker for Day 2 of the annual conference of the Texas Cattlefeeders Association.

Jim Carroll – “I’m willing to admit that it was the first time I’ve ever had audience members getting their boots shined before my keynote address! But talk about an audience focused on innovation!”

The event was lined as the result of another keynote I did in Sonoma County, California last April, where I spoke to a  gathering that included “what were probably the top 100 cattle, stockyard and feedlot operators in the US.” I reported on that event in a post, “Agriculture 2020: Innovation, growth & opportunity.”

The common theme to both of these keynotes? There is massive, significant opportunity for global growth in the agricultural sector. While there might be a lot of short term volatility due to the daily twists and turns with the global economy, one undeniable fact remains: global food production has to double over the next several decades to keep up with population growth and increasing food intake, particularly within emerging economies. I’ve found with both of these audiences that there is a relentless sense of optimism, and certainly a pretty significant openness to new ideas and opportunities for innovation. Read the post about “agriculture 2020” and you’ll get a sense of the reasons for their optimism.

That’s why I was fascinated to come across an article (“Future of ag is all about refrigerators“) that appeared in the Farm & Dairy Blog back in October (its the official for the well known Farm & Dairy Newspaper) that covered  my thinking and message in a nutshell:

We still face a global food market — a world population that stands at 6.9 billion and could reach 7 billion by the end of October.

If those numbers make your head spin and you really feel disconnected from that reality, think about refrigerators instead.

Carroll reminds us, as other have, that the growing population also has a growing segment with greater income, and they will eat more meat. He cites figures that estimate per capita meat consumption growth from 2000 to 2030 of 49 percent in China, 79 percent in India, and 22 percent in Brazil, for example.

And in India, the number one consumer product on an individual’s wish list is a television.

Number two? A refrigerator.

“Right now, refrigerators have only a 13 percent market penetration,” Carroll wrote in a blog post earlier this year.

“Talk about opportunities for growth.

 Sometimes the easiest way to think about future trends is to forget all the fancy analysis, detailed summaries, and simply concentrate on one simple statistic and trend. Most people in the world don’t have a refrigerator. Many want to have one. That fact alone is going to drive agriculture forward at a furious pace.

Farm & Dairy wasn’t the only one to pick up on this theme: over at The Social Silo (“Agriculture gets wired”), an article appeared, “Five Farm Things to Chew On This Week“, which offered up some “food for thought” for those in the agriculture sector.

Their last point? Refrigerators!

We’ve heard so much about world population growth and “who will feed the world,” that we’ve actually become a little distanced from that conversation. But the reality is this: As more people worldwide increase their income and class standing, they will eat more meat. In India, the number one item on wish lists is a television. The second wish? No, not a car, but a refrigerator, says futurist Jim Carroll. “Right now, refrigerators have only a 13 percent market penetration. Talk about opportunities for growth,” Carroll wrote in his blog last spring.

Carroll predicts per capita meat consumption growth from 2000 to 2030 will be 49 percent in China, 79 percent in India, and 22 percent in Brazil.

That alone should give you something to chew on.

Of course, agricultural producers have to balance the reality of growth with innovation in methods involving production, due to growing concerns about sustainability, safety and quality. The Farm & Dairy article went on to observe this issue around innovation.

We’re going to need more food, but we’re going to have to produce it more sustainably. That will take innovation, new ways of thinking, and new ways of farming.

Carroll predicts we’ll see more change on the farm in the next 10 years than we’ve seen in the last 50, and he might be right. Today’s farmer has reinvented himself at least once in his lifetime, and will have to be ready to reinvent his farm again.

Ag entrepreneurs will flourish. The opportunity is there for the future of agriculture. Just open the refrigerator.

I must admit, it certainly is a thrill to work with folks throughout the agriculture sector — I do find this to be one of the most innovative sectors of the population. That might come as a surpass to many people, who often view farmers and ranchers as folks who are stuck in tradition. Nothing could be further from the truth — the sector has come to accept innovation as a core virtue for years.

Indeed, I wrote about this way back in 2005, when i was out there talking to the theme, “I Found the Future in Manure: How to Capitalize on the Rapid Evolution of Science”. Those series of keynotes were based on the very theme of innovation that I was discovering throughout the agriculture sector in the early part of 2000-2001. I even ended up writing an article that made it into my Ready, Set, Done book, called “I found the future in manure!”

One thing I’ve come to appreciate is that farmers and ranchers and those who support theme can be some of the most innovative people on the planet. Here’s a video clip from a keynote to a US Military conference in Dallas — yes, the military — and I’m describing to them the unique innovation insight that can be learned from farmers.

 If you want to master innovation — then think about refrigerators, and think like a farmer!

 

  • Farm & Dairy: The future of ag is in refrigerators 
  • Agriculture 2020: Innovation, opportunity and growth 
  • Farm Progress Magazine: Texas Cattlefeeders will Beef Up in Amarillo 
  • Food industry trends 2011: Report from a keynote 
  • Blog post: I found the future in manure 
  • 2004 article: “I found the future in manure!” 

 

 

 

10 Big Trends for Agriculture
December 22nd, 2005

I’ve got a number of keynotes coming up in the New Year focused on the agricultural sector, and have done quite a few in the past.

My client list in the ag sector is pretty long; it includes groups such as the Farm Media Journal • FMC Agriculture • Texas Cattle Feeders Association • FCC Services US (Farm Credit Cooperative) • MicroBeef Technologies • Mid-America Crop Protection Association • FarmTech • AgProgress Conference • Agricorp • Colorado CattleFeeders Association  • CropLife Canada • US Department of Agriculture • American Agriwoman Society • Syngenta • American Landscape and Nursery Association • Monsanto!

My insight resonates with the agricultural crowd, whether farmers, ranchers, or agricultural support and bio-science companies. I recently spoke to the top 100 cattle, stockyard and feedlot operators in the US at a private event in Sonoma County, California. The US Farm Credit Cooperative has brought me in twice. Want to think about opportunity? Read the post, Agriculture 2020! Innovation, Growth & Opportunity — and also read on below.

I’m preparing for a series of events at the end of February, and now is a good time as ever to put up a list of what I see happening.

Want more insight like this? Then read the post,

  1. Massive growth in food demand: The UK Food and Agriculture Association estimates that the world population will increase 47%, to 8.9 billion, by 2050. That’s a potentially huge food marketplace. That fact, more than anything, spells the reality that the agricultural industry is full of potential opportunity!
  2. A continuing rampup in efficiency: Simple fact: global agriculture must double in the next 30 years to sustain this type of population growth. Add this reality check: there is little new arable land in the world. The result is that existing producers will have to continue to focus on smarter, better, more efficient growing in order to meeting demand.
  3. Hyper-science: One of the realities of the infinite idea loop in which we now find ourselves is this: while there are 19 million known chemical substances today, the number is constantly doubling every 13 years… with some 80 million by 2025, and 5 billion by 2100. Science is evolving at a furious pace, and with science at the root of agriculture, we will continue to see constant, relentless new methods of improving crop and livestock yield.
  4. Innovation defines success: Growers that focus on innovation as a core value will find success; their innovation will focus on the triple-feature need for growth, efficiency and ingestion of new science. It will be by adopting new methodologies, products, partnerships and ideas that they will learn to thrive.
  5. Retail and packaging innovation drive agricultural decisions: Do this: stare at a banana. Did you know that Chiquita banana has come up with a special membrane that doubles the shelf-life of the product, doing this regulating the flow of gases through the packaging? Take a look at Naturepops: each lollipop is wrapped in fully bio-degradable film made from plant matter, and the bags they come in are made from recycled paper, water-based ink and poly lactic acid made from cornstarch. There’s a huge amount of innovation happening with packaging companies and on the store shelf, and all of these trends have a big impact on agriculture.
  6. Intelligent packaging moves front and center: Innovation with packaging will take an even bigger leap in years to come, and will involve hyperconnectivity, a trend that will be driven by food safety, tracability, country of origin and nutrition labelling needs. Our lives are soon to be transformed by packaging that can “connect” to the global data grid that surrounds us; and its’ role will have been transformed from being that of a “container of product” to an intelligent technology that will help us with use of the product, or which will help us address safety and tracability issues.
  7. The energy opportunity: Agriculture is set to play a huge role as we wean ourselves away from our dependence on oil and natural gas. The US Department of Energy plans to see alternative fuels provide 5% of the nations energy by 2020, up from 1% today. And it is expected that there will be $1.2 billion in new income for farmers and rural landowners by getting involved with new energy sources such as windpower. Europe plans to have a market that involves at least 20% usage of bio-fuels by 2020, and Feed & Grain estimates that liquid fuels from agricultural feed could replace 25% to 30% of US petroleum imports by that time.
  8. Convenience and health take center stage: We will continue to see rapid change in consumer taste and expectations as people comes to place more emphasis or doing their best with the little time that they have. For example, it is expected that fresh-cut snacks grew from an $8.8 billion market in 2003 to $10.5 billion by 2004, according to the International Fresh-Cut Produce Association, as part of a trend in which produce and fruit continue to compete with traditional snacks. Expect such unique trends to growth both in terms of number and rapidity.
  9. Direct consumer-producer relationships blossom: As this technology evolves and as people become more concerned about the safety of what they eat, a natural result is a frenetic rate of growth in direct relationships between growers and consumers.
  10. Generational transformation: perhaps the biggest trend is that we are about to witness a sea-change in the rate by which new ideas in the world of agriculture are accepted, as a new generation of technology-weaned, innovative younger people take over the family farm.
  11. Partnership defines success: If there is one trend I emphasize in every industry I’m involved with, it is that no one individual or organization can know everything there is to know. As I indicated in my I found the future in manure article, this trend is also becoming prevalent in agriculture. We will continue to see an increasing number of partnerships between growers and advisers, suppliers, buyers, retailers and just about everyone else, so that they learn to deal with the massive complexities that emerge from rapid change and innovation.

Wait — that’s 11 trends! And that’s indicative of just how rapidly this industry is set to be transformed……

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