The year is 2060 and today our company’s time capsule, sealed back in the dark days of late 2009, was finally opened. In the capsule, we found, as you might expect, a treasure trove of old products, quaint logos and uniforms, and faded photographs of employees. But we also found some fascinating documents of the period: budgets, strategic plans, performance reports and, perhaps most interesting of all, letters written by executive managers addressed to the men and women who would be responsible for guiding the company’s performance in 2060.
We asked our team leaders to comment on their predecessors’ letters in their daily meta-net sensecasts. Here are some of their responses:
Phillip Jenkins, chief processes officer (in 2009, this position was called vice president of operations):
"Wow, I’m glad I’ve never had that guy’s headaches. He wrote, 'We have a few production control issues,' but it struck me that they had minimal control of anything at all back then. Their enterprise resource planning system was like a 1910 airplane’s rudder-and-stick compared to our sophisticated navigational and automated guidance controls today. And when I read his reference to 'somewhat unreliable' sales order forecasting and the resulting fire drills from unplanned events, it sounded like they might as well have used a crystal ball!
Today we’re so much more fortunate. We have frequently updated predictive modeling algorithms with their rich exogenous factor input sensors, including a 31-day weather forecast that’s usually spot on. That removes practically all our uncertainty in the short-term planning horizon and much of it for the intermediate and long term. Insight and steering — that’s what we have. How did that guy sleep at night?"
Maia Bischoff, chief value creation officer (in 2009, this role was chief financial officer):
"My poor predecessor CFO! She must have been pulling her hair out every day in frustration. My interpretation of her letter is that she was primarily worried about getting her external compliance financial reporting right so she wouldn’t end up in jail. For us, the universal accounting rules from the Global Accounting Federation (created in 2023, thank goodness, to clean up that IFRS reporting mess) are all automated and directly integrated to every legal enterprise on the planet. And with our single global currency – the yeneurodollarrupee – foreign currency translations are a relic from the past.
Financial reporting is effortless and incorruptible. My staff rarely spends a minute thinking about the “how-to” of financial valuations for investors and government regulators. Our attention and energy is almost exclusively focused on internal managerial accounting and analysis for economic value creation for our stockholders, achieved by quasi-optimal decision-making software tools used by all of our employees.
Also, our job is much simpler since the shrinkage of that behemoth, economic-bubble-creating-and-bursting financial sector that mushroomed at the beginning of this century, with its exorbitant and unjustified high salaries. Banking today is like the buggy-whip manufacturing industry of 1910. Now companies compete on products and services, resulting in real, not artificial, economic wealth creation that banks can no longer drain from the real economy."
Jamal O’Keefe, Zen innovation officer (responding to our 2009 vice president of research and development):
"My predecessor’s staff had more fun than our innovation team today. Back then it was a wild time of discovery. Continuous innovation had become the prerequisite entry-ticket to compete, similar to what quality control had become in the 1980s. Today, although constant innovation remains an absolute given, every competitor in every industry is near parity in their rate of innovation. It’s not the competitive edge it once was.
The fusion of our learning and knowledge systems fused our predictive analytics is essential, or we would fail. To be sure, our new depth-intuition techniques and insight incubation processes show great promise. But since the shift to customer relationship optimization as our company’s key driver, my staff’s work of creating new products, services and processes has become largely routine. It’s like a marathon run without a finish line."
Donna Pugliese, chief customer acquisition officer (in 2009, chief marketing officer):
"Judging from the letter to me from the CMO back then, I’d say he wasn’t actually doing marketing – he was just throwing money at any prospective customer that had a heartbeat. My older staff members still refer to it as “spray-and-pray” advertising.
The letter claimed the company had improved the 'targeting' of customers in its marketing campaigns. But his marketing plan reminds me of the wooden trebuchets used in the Middle Ages to lob boulders against castle walls - occasionally they had an impact.
My predecessor would be impressed by our laser-like customer intelligence and marketing spend optimization tools. We not only identify and acquire new customers based on maximum potential financial return through our communication channels (all compliant with the Global Citizen Privacy Pact), but we also ensure that our growth rate is in perfect harmony with our asset and employee capacity addition plans. We acquire only the highest rank-ordered lifetime value customer leads. For us, customers are investments – like the components of a stock portfolio – and we’ve solved the optimization challenge of converting customer equity to shareholder wealth creation. My predecessor appears clueless that such a relationship even existed."
Andrew T. Huntingdon III, chief customer relationship officer (in 2009, vice president of sales):
"My predecessor wasn’t selling; he was bribing. No, I’m not talking about illegal bribes like those we remember from the Great Corruption era of the late 2040s. I mean wasting the shareholders’ potential for higher wealth by offering ridiculously huge price discounts, deals and giveaways.
He’d be impressed by how we optimize our time and spending today with finely-tailored, minutely-differentiated services for each of our 2,700 customer micro-segments. We never wastefully overspend on our most loyal customers, nor do we underspend on marginally less loyal customers who might otherwise defect to our competitors.
In the 2030s, we learned the painful lesson that customer retention, while a key lever to shareholder wealth creation, is not enough. You have to refine retention — you have to retain the correct type of customer and then grow high-profit-margin sales from that base. We realized that in almost all industries, products and standard service lines had become commodities, neutralizing any competitive advantage. Differentiating services for different types of customers had to become a science.
The turning point came when we made a true commitment to two sales growth principles: First, nurture customer relationships. Second, use thought leadership to bring customers new ideas and innovations that help them to achieve their own strategic objectives and to better serve their clients."
Dr. Victoria Wong, chief performance officer (in 2009, vice president of strategy):
"My predecessor read too many books and seems to have spent most of her time sitting in her office, with only infrequent interactions with the executive team. Her strategic plan document, as thick as my fist, is laughable. Did anyone ever actually read it? From what I understand of our company’s history, that plan was obsolete in just a few years!
Today, many of our employees opt for a morning scan of their at-home bathroom mirror imager, which dynamically displays our corporate strategic objectives diagram, scorecard and dashboards, together with individualized performance indicator dials showing key actual-to-target measures. But whether they use the mirror imager or not, every morning, before starting their work day, everyone can answer the critical question: 'How am I doing on what’s important?' Everyone. It’s a great daily reminder to take actions that are aligned with our strategic objectives. And it ensures they will receive their bonuses."
Frederick Al-Rashidi, human asset growth officer (in 2009, vice president of human resources):
"So many of us forget that in the not-so-distant past the human asset growth function was regarded as a dumping ground for non-performers, and that any role in 'human resources,' as it was known then, was a dead-end job. As I read my predecessor’s letter, I was amazed that her role centered on recruiting, along with maintaining salary compensation bracket tables that she herself confessed were unbalanced and inequitable. Her staff seems to have been obsessed with cajoling managers to do performance appraisals of their employees.
In contrast, human asset growth executives today are among the biggest influencers of shareholder wealth creation. For example, at our annual shareholders meeting, I’m always the kickoff speaker. The investor community now knows that the quality and learning growth rate of our employees and partners are the primary determinants of our company’s success.
Our custom career paths, co-developed with our employees, have given our productivity improvements a jolt. Our analytical human capital management software system is invaluable in detecting the slightest risk of losing a valued employee and enables us to mitigate that risk with the correct action. Employee retention is absolutely critical, given the value of the intellectual property that resides in the brains of our knowledge workers.
And employee performance appraisal? Fortunately, that’s all institutionalized under our chief performance officer’s scorecard and dashboard systems and bonus incentive program."
Vanida Bhirombhakdi, the chief (in 2009, the chief executive officer):
"I like being called the Chief. The dictionary definition is 'a leader and person in command.' My predecessor seems to have been more enamored of the term 'executive.' I’m not sure he understood that this role has two main responsibilities: First, setting the strategic direction – answering the question ‘Where do we want to go?’ And second, providing vision, inspiration and an environment for employees’ and trading partners’ learning and growth.
My predecessor’s letter kept insisting on the need for 'excellence.' But leadership is not about hollow words; it’s about enabling performance management decision-making. While the decision about where we want to go is my responsibility, our managers and employees must answer the question: 'How will we get there?'
My struggle is to maintain a balance, so that we’re constantly getting smarter and healthier. To get smarter, I ensure that we maintain our fabulous culture of metrics. We are very quantitative here. To get healthier, I focus on employee morale and customer relationships. Happy people are productive people. Happy customers buy more from us.
It was interesting to me that there was no letter in the time capsule to our chief partner relationship officer. My guess is that back then, the attitude was “never trust a supplier or vendor; always try to squeeze them.” The thinking was that if you drove a partner out of business, you could always find another one. Of course, that kind of attitude died out in the 2020s. Nowadays, business is all about partners and the value they can bring to you."
The capsule also contained a letter from the director of information technologies. As we all know, this function became obsolete in the 2050s when the company implemented a software program that prioritizes and fulfills requests made directly by the line managers. The letter also refers to another rather obscure job title: CIO. One of our young new hires has posted a meta-net enquiry “What was a CIO?” – to which an older worker responded, “Career Is Over.”