By Jim Montague, Executive Editor
As the late U.S. House Speaker Tip O'Neil famously stated, "All politics is local." People want to know what's happening in their own neighborhoods and communities. What's going on in the next town over? What "next town over?" Sure, this tunnel vision occurs because most people, families and communities, including professions, are exclusively focused on their own issues and problems. This narrow focus might seem like self-centeredness, but I think each group's concentration is required to get its members to do all the jobs that must be done by any family, group or community to survive and thrive.
As a result, I was recently shocked by how many eerily similar challenges seem to be shared by a bunch of unrelated professions and industries. It happened just a few weeks ago as I was judging special magazine section entries for the 2011 trade editorial contest put on by the American Society of Business Press Editors (www.ASBPE.org), and I kept repeatedly running across stories about problems I used to think only affected the process control industries. Here are some highlights:
- Everybody continues to struggle with their IT functions and how to integrate their IT staffs and operations to better assist their larger organizations. For example, Modern Healthcare's July 5, 2010, issue had a section with five case studies about how healthcare organizations are using IT and Internet-based tools to gather better data, establish benchmarks and improve performance in a self-reinforcing and continuous loop. Sound familiar?
- Green and sustainability are everywhere, and so is the breathless hype about them. For instance, Builder magazine's July 2010 issue detailed how medium-sized home builders are revamping their designs to include more resource-efficient building practices and sustainable materials to produce LEED-certified houses that end users, I mean, homebuyers will soon demand.
- Whether they're caused by shifting technologies and job descriptions or aging staffs and attrition, skills gaps are creating widening holes in many industries. Network World reported in its Feb. 8, 2010, issue that IT data center managers are having a hard time finding staff with the right mix of skills, especially technicians who also understand IT's business-side responsibilities, power and cooling issues, and virtualization, and then discussed what they can do to instill and grow these abilities.
- Naturally, the recent U.S. and worldwide economic recession injured pretty much every industry, so numerous trade publications continue to offer advice and encouragement to their readers on how to cope with scarce credit, slack orders, layoffs and staffing shortages, piled up raw materials and inventories, and how to get moving again. Landscape Management's October 2010 issue showed its readers how a few large contractors weathered the recession, took time to reinvest and retool, and then came back stronger than ever. Good advice for any industry.
- Fast-changing social media tools, such as blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and others, are hard to take seriously, and hard to know how to integrate into many industries. For example, Rejuvenate, a Christian convention planning magazine, reported in its April 2010 issue that using social media tools is a worthwhile use of time and energy because its one more useful avenue for developing solid relationships among those community members that use them.
Consequently, if it seems like no one else is going through what you are, you probably need to get out and talk to as many as two or three people. That's because most professions and industries in North America, if not elsewhere, are facing similar brain drains of veterans, struggles with IT, questions about going green and how the heck to use social media.
So look up. The town or industry next door may have just found way to solve the problem you're wrestling with right now.