by Anni Rowland-Campbell, Executive Director, GAMAA
“Forget change. Successful businesses of the future will be embracing transformation. Change is doing what we do now, but doing it more efficiently or productively. Transformation is about a new way of being.” (Richard Barrett)
Our industry into the 21st Century – Print21 and “all that”
In March 2001 “Print21” was launched in Australia. The culmination of six years work “Print21” sought to “provide a strategic overview of the Australian printing industry; where it is today, future growth opportunities and snapshots of possible growth pathways into the 21st Century” (Print21 Executive Summary).
Our industry, Australia’s third largest within the manufacturing sector and fifth largest in terms of employer (RBA, July 2002), is, like many which have a “traditional” crafts base, undergoing unprecedented technological change; change that has contributed to a chronic over-supply and under-utilisation of equipment, a major shift in the nature and type of workforce, and the redundancy of many of the business processes by which many companies operate (BPIF Report 1997, Print21 Australia, Print21 UK).
The Print21 recommendations state that within the “new economy” profitable business development will depend on strategies that creatively integrate:
- Clever business strategy based on sound knowledge and in-depth understanding of existing and potential customer needs
- Appropriate use of print technology;
and, most importantly,
- “Patient investment by firms in the professional development of people” (Print21 Executive Summary, p 7)
GAMAA, the Graphic Arts Merchants Association of Australia, represents technology supply companies to our industry (and was one of the major contributing partners to Print21). GAMAA and its member companies are as enmeshed in the challenges facing the industry as are our members’ customers.
From the supply perspective, it is increasingly obvious that supply companies need to have people who understand the business environment of their customers, can help them align their technology needs with those of the market, and can work with customers in the longer term to develop robust and flexible businesses that can quickly respond to their customers’ needs.
As such GAMAA members have spent the last few years exploring ways in which GAMAA, as an organisation, can assist the industry, and at our 2000 Biennial Retreat it became clear that the solution was to focus on “growing people”, both within our own companies and those of our customers.
Whereas our counterpart organisations in the US, UK and Europe are primarily focussed on “growing new markets” – on expanding their businesses into the Newly Independent States and Eastern European countries, and China and Asia, the reality of the Australian market is that it is finite – that “growth” cannot be measured in terms of making the pot bigger, but must be assessed in terms of making it better.
As such GAMAA’s core philosophy is to work towards creating a better pool of talent within Australia from which all companies can draw – to have better qualified and educated people who can meet the challenges of a difficult market and help our industry “grow” in terms of competitiveness, profitability and sustainability.
As a workforce our industry has a well developed technical and sales base. Much of the work we do is a “craft” – we can ‘look at’ and ‘feel’ what we produce; we can conceptualise things visually and deal with complicated technologies to ensure a smooth workflow and efficient processes, and we have an innate sense of “quality” which is, after all, what most of our customers want. What we don’t have is formal business or management training, highly developed financial skills, nor do we have many of the leadership and people management skills that will be needed in the 21st Century.
This is the core of the Print21 message, and the challenge that GAMAA has set for itself.
GAMAA’s Education Scholarship Programme
One way in which GAMAA, as an organisation, has determined to make a contribution is to channel its resources into the development of a programme which can provide both the formal skills and education needed within our industry, as well as some of the informal elements. Our target market is those people within the industry who are themselves in a position to effect change.
The GAMAA Education Scholarship programme, which was launched in July 2002, is designed to facilitate the opportunity for middle and senior managers to pursue formal academic studies whilst at the same time offering the industry in general the opportunity to gain some additional skills that will be useful in their businesses.
To progress our desire to create an educational programme, GAMAA formed an education task group who were charged with researching options which were then reported back to the entire membership.
In the first instance the task group considered an industry specific business management programme. However as this concept was researched it became apparent that an industry specific course would not meet the overall objectives of the programme for the following reasons:
- people didn’t want to be locked into an industry specific course – they wanted to meet and interact with others from different industries to gain a broader business perspective;
- they wanted maximum flexibility and portability in terms of studies – i.e. to travel and study, or to change jobs, companies, and even countries, within the industry; and
- financially the industry cannot support an on-going programme tailored specifically for it (the cost would be millions of dollars, not thousands).
Taking the concept to the industry, we conducted a series of workshops with potential students and managers which resulted in a framework within which to best accommodate individual needs whilst at the same time hoping that the ‘key learnings’ remain in and are disseminated more widely throughout the industry.
The other major lesson we learned was that GAMAA has neither the resources nor the expertise to develop and deliver any of the components itself. Thus we decided to search for “strategic partners” who would work with us initially, but would see this as an opportunity to help us develop the intellectual capital for ourselves. Our aim is to build a knowledge base within the industry so that in the longer term we are not reliant on external providers, but can draw on a wide network in order to best service the diverse needs of the industry as they evolve.
The GAMAA Education Programme
Essentially the programme has three components:
- Tertiary Education – GAMAA has now offered eight scholarships to managers within both supply and printing companies to undertake business management courses from their own choice of universities around Australia. These scholarships comprise 50% funding of academic fees together with the provision of an Academic mentor from within each of the selected universities.
- Because GAMAA realises that dealing with universities can be a ‘mine field’ we have entered into a strategic alliance with the Australian Computer Society Foundation, a federally registered educational foundation which currently administers over 54 scholarships at 37 universities around the country for the IT industry. By working with the Foundation GAMAA students become part of a network of students whose scholarship is recognised by both Federal and State governments, will gain a knowledge and understanding of the impact and utilisation of IT within our industry, will be able to meet other students from IT companies, and will be recognised as having a ‘presence’ within the university environment.
- Industry Workshops – GAMAA has now commissioned two industry specific three day residential and intensive workshops focusing on key industry issues and case studies. These workshops are a core component for the Scholarship recipients (for whom it is compulsory to attend), and there will also be a limited number of places available to the industry in general. Workshop details will be announced shortly.
GAMAA has entered into a Joint Venture with the Melbourne Business School (MBS) to create and deliver these workshops which will allow students to be exposed to the latest in management thinking from a range of experts within mainstream business management. Part of the focus for the workshops is to bring industry managers together to work on material which will have direct relevance to their workplace, whilst at the same time developing an industry network.
A mentoring programme – one of the core elements is to provide the Scholarship recipients with some of the more intangible elements of ‘leadership’ development, and, in particular, to give them the skills to grow and mentor people within their organisations.
GAMAA has engaged an Executive Coach, Barbara Wilby of “Corporate Wisdom” to conduct a series of workshops which will teach the students to become more aware of how their own values and attitudes contribute to their organisations and those with whom they work (both colleagues and customers) and then develop skills to improve those working relationships.
What do we hope to achieve?
Our industry, one of the most diverse, challenging and exciting on the planet, is beset by problems which are largely of our own making. As a “communications” industry we have largely been unable to “market” ourselves and the opportunities we offer; as a “business” industry our own research shows us that we don’t capitalise on and exploit business opportunities offered to us, and are therefore vulnerable to competition from both other industries, but also our own lack of management and expertise.
This programme is a proactive response to the findings of Print21 by GAMAA, an organisation which prides itself on the fact that our members are competitors within the marketplace, yet are actively working together to try to change industry perception – both within and without. It is an attempt to try to change the culture of our industry in the long term, to build upon that wonderful “craft” base that is so valuable (and yet so scarce in the modern business environment) and sense of community by providing learning opportunities for people to help themselves.
We hope that a number of outcomes will be achieved:
- that some quality “research” may result from the academic work being undertaken and the investigations done, by both students and our academic partners
- that a number of struggling organisations (both large and small) may be better able to both develop their own resources and understand where to find external assistance to help them survive
- that there might be an increased understanding between different parts of the industry as to the challenges being faced and ways to successfully deal with business and management problems
- that the external perception may begin to change, so that our industry is seen as one which offers a longer term career path with the opportunity for ongoing learning and professional development, and from this
- that slowly the pool of “talent” within our industry further develops to truly meet both industry and market needs to ensure the longer term sustainability of our industry
We cannot do this on our own. If this is to succeed we will need assistance from all within the industry who share the dream, and want to be part of the adventure to make it a reality.