Mr Muhammad Nawaz Sharif must focus on major issues rather than trivialities so as to make best use of his third term as Prime Minister. One is hard pressed to say it, but there is a thing or two he could learn from former President Asif Ali Zardari; like keeping his cool. In spite of diversity and complexities of issues and ever growing crises, it is indeed possible to build a unified national outlook.

Imagination is key here; imagining and preemptively creating the future. The fast changing environment in which institutions work today points to the need for continuous renewal and coping with new dimensions of organizational culture–its material as well as non–material aspects. A major challenge confronting organizations today is an increasingly fast changing environment that devalues past experiences and the resources and instruments of organization and management. This necessitates learning new skills and exposure to new knowledge and emerging organizational behaviors. A clear definition of mission objectives is required, as well as strategies, policies, resources, and the tools that facilitate smooth sailing operations of public and private businesses.

The conflict of institutions results in bad governance, polarization, corruption, hate, lawlessness, disrespect of authority and the ultimate demise of the whole politico-administrative system. For improving the economy and general health of the society, focus is required on sociological, political and technical aspects of public administration. There is need for continuous revitalization of institutions and effective management of the affairs of the state.

Experts talk of long-term and short-term objectives as well as long-term plans and short-term plans. The long-term is not something that happens someday; it is what every organization is building or forfeiting. The future is not what will happen, the future is what is happening. The present and the future are intertwined. The long-term and the short-term depend on how fast the environment of institutions change and how rapidly events take place that change the scenario confronting administrators, planners and politicians at every level. From a military point of view, fast adjustments in strategy and action are required without losing time. This is done by keeping an eye on enemy moves and taking stock of what is happening in the theatre of war. When time matters most, action is needed instantly; there is no long-term and short-term debate. In many ways, strategy has been discredited over the past few years. Gradually, the focus has shifted more and more on operational issues. However, it does not reduce the importance of planning and strategy formulation. Strategy is hard work; creating a compelling view of tomorrow’s opportunities.

Government has to be run like a successful business enterprise. The goal is to fundamentally re-invent existing competitive space or to invent an entirely new competitive space. Most problems are interlinked requiring an integrated approach to look for solutions. Take peace and security for example. Conflict leads to poverty, undermines development, stifles social progress, weakens the rule of law, contributes to the destruction of the environment, and creates humanitarian crises and refugee outflows. “Politicians often exploit poverty, stagnation, exclusion and injustice existing in society to foment conflict and incite violence; and depletion of resources and dislocation of the population fuel conflict.” To make an organization like the United Nations, for example, sufficiently modern in order to address this kind of interlinked problem, it would have to go beyond reform proposals, reinventing the whole organization to suit the vastly changed global political and economic context as compared to the one prevalent at the time of its inception.

Leadership is likely to succeed in its role if it is creating the future rather than watching it happen. It is important to learn to oppose the forces of institutional entropy that undermine organizational effectiveness and sap institutional vitality. Preventive measures would include creating a capacity for continuous organizational renewal and developing an enabling culture. It is important to learn how to stem the tide of individual estrangement that threatens to wash over those who have borne the pain of downsizing, delayering, divesting and refocusing. The answer to the problem is re-engineering individuals, creating a sense of purpose and mutual commitment. The choice is not between incrementalist operational improvements (on the one hand) and ego-driven mega deals (on the other).

Limitations of incrementalism push for reinventing. The need to provide an immediate, quick and appropriate response in a fast changing situation calls for a preemptive approach to create the future, achieve a competitive edge and to stay away from crises and dilemmas. Modern ideas, concepts and tools help to create a revolution in the world of public and private organizations’ ways of working, achieving objectives and securing the future. Key values are intensely held and widely shared in organizations with strong cultures, built through creativity and hard work. Nothing is more liberating than becoming the author of one’s own destiny. This is the stage where one understands that the present and the future are intertwined. The future is not what will happen; the future is what is happening. As for the leadership, is it creating the future or watching it happen? Sitting atop problems is akin to neglecting responsibility. Those willing to confront the challenge of change are able to deliver and come up to the expectations of the people.

There is no long-term. And how short, is the short-term? It depends on how quick the response will be? Current thoughts on strategic planning and strategic communication suggest readiness for strategy and action from one moment to the next. Readiness means availability of alternate strategy and preparations for an adequate and appropriate response in a given situation with analytical abilities and real vision.

Opposing the forces of institutional entropy is important, especially when the culture of disrespect of authority, deceit, corruption and violence prevails and the situation is leading to a disaster ridden society and crisis ridden institutions. In the ultimate analysis, it is the leadership with vision and capabilities that makes the difference. A morally bankrupt political system cannot be expected to deliver to the expectations of the people.

Creating the future means the government and the opposition leadership joins hands to satisfy the need for decentralized, more entrepreneurial, more responsive organizations designed for rapidly changing the information-rich world of today. We trust in development with good intentions, keeping the nation above one’s self and visualizing the government and the opposition on the same page.

 The writer is a former director NIPA, a political analyst, a public policy expert and an author.