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We enter 2012 with a lot of unknowns.  Will the European debt crisis be resolved effectively and expeditiously or will it lead to another recession?  Will the American economy that is showing some signs of improvement, be able to strengthen during a U.S. election year that will likely produce more political gridlock?  Will the expected surge of foreclosed homes further depress the U.S. housing market and the economy or will the buyers of these homes create a resurgence in home renovation?  Will North American consumers drive a solid increase in the purchase of goods and services at the expense of higher debt per capita or will this be a year to pay down debt and hunker down for what is expected to be a long and slow economic recovery?  Will business leaders feel confident enough to take some of the trillions of dollars that have been parked and invest in plant, equipment and new hires or will they keep their hands in their pockets and drive the unemployment rate higher?  I wish I knew the answers to these questions since they will have a material effect on freight transportation. 

With these issues as a backdrop, here are some suggested strategies to lead your freight transportation organization in 2012.

1. Expect the Unexpected and take an “Emergent” Strategy Approach

In such a volatile climate, a “proceed with caution” approach would make good sense in 2012.  This would include everything from fleet purchases to new hires. 

Unless a clearer picture begins to appear from the shadows of 2011, it would be wise to take an “Emergent” strategy approach first suggested by Professor of Business Strategy Henry Mintzberg at McGill University in Montreal. Instead of the more commonly used deliberate approach, the emergent approach is the view that strategy emerges over time as intentions collide with, and accommodate, a changing reality. It is a more grass roots, front-line oriented approach where solving real business problems lead to new strategies.  Executives should look for new business opportunities among their front-line troops and middle managers.  They should test a number of these opportunities using an approach known as Jugaad.

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