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December 21, 2016 | by Bob Weidner

Compelling Change in a Turbulent World

Innovation and transformation are not optional

If you don't like change, you will like irrelevance even less.  —General Eric Shinseki

Four Star General Shinseki, a war hero and former Secretary of Veterans Affairs, is talking to all of us. The holiday season and beginning of a new year, is a time of reflection for most, a time to take stock, to hopefully glean valuable lessons from our successes and mistakes over the past year. This year, for me and the team at MSCI, it is also an intense time of building for the future. 

The industrial metals supply chain is in the throes of sweeping change at every turn. Many of our most seasoned leaders are giving way to a new generation. Mergers and acquisitions and a grindingly sluggish economy have shrunk our numbers over the last decade. Shipments have not and may not recover to pre-recession levels. China continues to violate international trade laws and agreements, threatening the foundation of our domestic industry with heavily subsidized overproduction. Big data, robotics, predictive analytics and sensors are quickly changing the economics and opportunities across the supply chain. 

To be blunt, those who would ignore these powerful business forces, who try to hunker down and wait for the old economic models to kick in, are at serious risk of irrelevance in a world shifting under them. This would be just as true of our resilient 108-year-old Metals Service Center Institute, if we chose to cling to a business model that has served us well, but that is now verging toward obsolescence. 
 
That is why, as many of you know, we at MSCI are doing some of the hardest work we have ever done, intent on transforming our organization to help you manage these disruptive changes, serve you more effectively and become increasingly relevant to improving your bottom lines. 

The very future of manufacturing and the metals supply chain requires us to embrace fresh thinking, innovative planning and a receptivity to change that we have not encountered before. So far, even the new administration in Washington and one party control of the Congress is not yet offering us the certainty we are hoping to see on key public policies. The president-elect, though unpredictable, does seem to be endorsing many of the reforms, on taxation, trade and infrastructure spending that could form a positive, growth agenda for manufacturing. 

And with the housing, construction, and energy sectors moving in the right directions for now, I am guardedly optimistic. But we will need to see how, or if, the new president and his appointees can actually work with each other and a congress of their own party that remains deeply divided. My crystal ball gets a bit cloudy at this point. 

MSCI, in any case, cannot wait for Washington to sort itself out. Part of our own transformation is strengthening our government relations programs to more effectively assert our industry’s interests on your behalf. Vigorous advocacy will be more important than ever as policy is forged in this new, but highly uncertain political climate. 

That is only part of our re-visioning efforts. We have embarked on a rigorous analysis of the business environment, our customer base and our products and services. We are carefully examining our business model in the same way that we hope you are continually re-evaluating your own. 

As a result, in the coming year we will be rolling out a series of innovative new programs and initiatives designed to give you the best tools and most relevant information you need to confidently cope with technological and demographic disruption, and the new dynamics of a global economy. These initiatives will include fresh opportunities for leadership development, workforce training, recruitment and retention, and reinforcing your commitment to workplace safety. We will continue to refine our authoritative data reports on industry trends, the economic outlook, and the metrics that can show you where your particular business stands as we move forward. 

We will be overhauling our conference formats and research projects to concentrate on the most useful, metals-focused developments that you need to run your businesses intelligently. We intend to be your go-to resource for the most critical metals supply chain support. We intend to be your eyes and ears on a world battered by change and uncertainty. 

This is why over the past year we have been reaching out to all of you in one-on-one interviews and in email surveys to tap your knowledge and expectations of our industry in transition. The information from these interviews and surveys will be an essential part of the foundation for our process of change. 

Our own resolutions for the New Year include strengthening our collaboration with all of you to make our industry and the world a better place. Management guru Peter Drucker described perfectly how we all must be working in these days of exponential innovation. “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence,” he said. “It is to act with yesterday’s logic.”
 
Please take good care of yourselves and your families. We wish you only the very best for the holidays and the New Year.