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In the alpine regions of northern Italy, trees don’t grow above 2,100 metres. Back in January, I was in
the Dolomites at an altitude of 2,500 metres looking out over an astonishing vista. The Sun is
shining, the sky is blue and the view is awe inspiring. I can clearly see the clusters of trees down
below me, I can see the clear ways through the trees and I can see the villages in the valley, way
down below, Ortisei to my left, Colfosco to my right and Selva straight out in front of me.

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The Strategic Context: The Meaning of Words

It can be illuminating to trace the roots of the original meanings of some of the words we use everyday without thinking. In English, many of the technical words that we use in business have their origins in ancient Latin and Greek. One such word is strategy which comes from the Greek work strategós meaning generalship in the military sense.

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Japan is the country in the world with the highest proportion of centenarians in its population. In fact, one in every 3500 Japanese is 100 years of age or older. Some other developed countries, most notably Italy, are not far behind. 

This increased longevity, combined with reduced fertility is leading to an ageing of the human population worldwide. Japan and Italy are just the leading edge of this global meta-trend that will have significant implications for business strategy everywhere.

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La Planificación Estratégica es una Contradicción

Cuando nos enfocamos en la actividad de la planificación empezamos anclados en la organización de
hoy (1) y extrapolamos hacia el futuro cargados de todas sus limitaciones y restricciones.

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When we work in the planning mode we start off anchored in the current reality of today’s organization (1) and we project into the future constrained by all the associated limitations and restrictions.

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Understanding International Operations Strategies and Supply Chain Relationships

There are myriad ways in which companies configure their operations to compete in this internationalized economy depending on the sector, the products and services they provide and the opposing pressures for global standardization and local responsiveness that they experience. Some adopt more centralised strategies holding value creation at the core in their home markets, while carrying out production and assembly in overseas markets. Others adopt strategies whereby they become truly transnational with more competences and capabilities devolved to international business units where local responsiveness in important.

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I have just returned from a very successful business trip to Egypt on behalf of one of my fast-growing, Irish-owned exporting clients. Egypt is a country that has had its fair share of economic and political turmoil since 2011 including a revolution, a new constitution, a military coup and a shock currency devaluation. Its capital, Cairo, is a sprawling megalopolis with some 20 million people living in its greater metropolitan area that is at once chaotic and exhilarating. Cairo is also the secular cultural heart of the Arabic speaking world in terms of culture, television and film, and a result, the Egyptian dialect of Arabic is the most widely understood within the Arab world.

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As leaders in our work and in our business it is important that we operate at all times with high levels of awareness about the processes of our work, the distinction between the different types of work that we do and the consequences of the choices we make in relation to how much of our time and energy we dedicate to these different types of activity.

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The Portuguese literary giant of the twentieth century, Jose Saramago, wrote a delightful, surreal and fantastical novel in the 1980s called The Stone Raft. It tells the story of a strange occurrence in the Pyrenees along the Franco-Spanish border when a breach opens up in the ground and the whole Iberian Peninsula physically breaks away from the rest of Europe and floats off westward into the Atlantic on a collision course with the Azores and the Americas. Chaos ensues as the authorities, bureaucrats and ordinary people in Spain and Portugal try to come to terms with their new and changing reality. It is an exceptionally entertaining and well-written fantasy.

 

Brexit on the other hand, is not a fantasy, but rather an unfolding reality with the prospect of a no-deal outcome with just two and half months to go to the October 31st 2019 exit date having risen significantly with the replacement of Theresa May by Boris Johnson at the head of the British government. However, while the United Kingdom may leave the European Union, with or without a deal, unlike Iberia in Saramago’s fiction, Britain can never leave Europe geographically. It will always be there, right where it is now, with France to the south, Ireland to the west and the Low Counties and the North Sea to the east and north.

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The Brexit rollercoaster continues. Theresa May has been succeeded by Boris Johnson in the UK premiership.

At the time of writing it appears that we are entering a new period of extreme political brinkmanship with three months to go to the October 31st deadline. What the outcome will be is anyone’s guess in this moment of volatility and uncertainty. However, one thing that we can be sure about in Ireland, whatever the outcome of the Brexit process, is that stability and certainty on the future trading relationship with the United Kingdom is very far off. Consequently, we must accelerate our plans and actions as business people to mitigate the worst effects of Brexit and to ensure that our businesses can survive and thrive into the future.

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