Good Fortune
Floods and droughts excepted, we make our own good fortune
A long-established local tradesman called me last weekend. He's taking his household to Dunedin because there's no longer anything for him in Alexandra. It's a story many of us are familiar with, the steady trickle of people moving on to better jobs, better prospects, the diverse attractions of city life.

It's also the story of most of Central Otago since the end of the Clyde Dam project. Slowly, steadily, and without much of an attempt to stop it, the vitality has been leaching out of our communities.

There's nothing new in this, of course. Communities have always risen and fallen, succeeded and failed. It's one of the defining features of all man-made organisations, from individual marriages to the fortunes of the largest commercial firms. Some succeed while others fail. There's no standing still.

And as you'd expect, lots of heavy-duty thought has gone into this subject over the years. One of the main conclusions - success or failure is hardly ever an accident. Droughts, floods, and other acts of God notwithstanding, we mostly make our own good fortune, individually and collectively.

It's also clear from the large literature on this subject that one thing characterises organisations that succeed. There's one diagnostic feature they all share - a strategy.

Successful organisations have a clear view of why they exist, what their strengths are, and where they are going - they have a strategy. Often, they have put considerable work into thinking it through, and they often make a few mistakes getting their strategy right, but it's always deliberate, thoughtful, structured and unique to them.

That's why firms like Honda (and a few others in their region) have continued to thrive while most of Pacific Asia is caught in economic meltdown. It's also why Tupelo, Mississippi, once among the poorest communities in the poorest state in the USA has seen a job growth of 1,500 per year since 1985, and now has only 7% of its residents below the official poverty line, and only 3% unemployment.

By many measures, most of Central's communities are failing. If you believe the experts, and the world-wide evidence, the answer to this is in our hands. If we continue to go down-hill, it'll be our fault.

And if you take the next step and accept that turning things around requires a strategy - a clear vision of our strengths and abilities, where we want to go as a community, and how we are going to get there - then I've got a question for you.

How is it going to happen?

Sunday, February 14, 1999

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