Markets are disrupted at a quicker pace than ever before. Welcome to the 2020s. Tesla is valued at more than Ford and GM combined. The combustion engine and its complementary industries have reached their peak and have nowhere to go but down. Jobs in heavy production are being eliminated by automation. The Coronavirus races across the globe. 

OHS often benefits from these periods of disruption. GM announced in January, 2020 that it’s investing $2.2 billion in an outdated and underutilized plant in Michigan to make electric vehicles. GM’s new EVs will come off the assembly line in late 2021. OHS improvements are certain to be engineered into GM’s new plant. 

Chinese authorities announced in late January 2020 that two hospitals, with 1,000- and 1,600-bed capacities, equipped with ICUs, patient wards, and infection control equipment, were built from the ground up and installed in a period of 10-12 days. Awareness, precautions and treatment for the coronavirus, and related more serious concerns such as seasonal flu, have forced OHS improvements. 

Strategic planning

If you’ve been part of strategic planning, not the annual type but plans looking out five, ten or more years, none of the above should come as a surprise. Ford, GM, Chrysler and other global automakers, including their tier-one suppliers, have known for years that the transition to EV was inevitable. GM waited until Tesla proved the business model before committing to building a modern EV factory. Demographers and social scientists have anticipated for years that the U.S. women’s workforce would eventually slightly surpass, working men. The Democratic Party strategically positioned itself to support the critical voter block of women through sponsorship of the federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) first introduced in 2012. The 2020 version of PWFA bill is H.R. 2694.  

The game of politics

Democrat vs. Republican values will be on display with H.R. 2694. H.R. 2694 moved out of committee January 14, 2020, with a vote of 29-17. Twenty-seven (27) of the “yes” votes came from Democrats and all 17 “no” votes came from Republicans.  As of January 31, 2020, H.R. 2694 is cosponsored by 204 members of the U.S. House (198 Democrats, 6 Republicans). 

The House is certain to pass H.R. 2694. But Republicans control the Senate and passage of H.R. 2694 is uncertain. The most likely scenario: H.R. 2694 is voted down by the Senate, and Democrats rally Millennial and Gen Z women voting blocs (those most likely to be a pregnant worker) to loudly claim Republicans don’t support their values. 

Politics is a game of chess not checkers. The political theater of the impeachment and acquittal trial of President Trump, that many pundits predicted beforehand was a foregone conclusion, had an objective to sway uncommitted voters. 

To secure a second term in office, President Trump must target votes in important Electoral College states as he did in the 2016 presidential election. A January 2020 poll from Baldwin Wallace, Ohio Northern and Michigan’s Oakland universities predict that women in four key states — Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — will likely decide who wins the next presidential election. Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin are now encircled by states with PWFA laws. In the past five years there have been successful campaigns, mostly orchestrated by Democratic-leaning advocates, to establish PWFA laws in Minnesota, Illinois, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Washington D.C., New Jersey, and New York. Indiana’s PWFA law moved out of committee January 2020. 

The game begins. Likely around June 2020, campaigns for state PWFA laws in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin are expected to begin and escalate. Members of the U.S. House, probably all Republicans, who vote against H.R. 2694, will be called to task. If the U.S. Senate votes down H.R. 2694 along Republican Party lines, as expected, all the better for Democrats to stake their claim that women in the workforce should cast their November 3, 2020 votes for Democrats.  

More strategy? The lead sponsor of H.R. 2694 is Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and a key nemesis during President Trump’s impeachment trial. Again, strategic planning in politics, as well as business, is a game of chess with pieces in place and timed to be played. President Trump’s supporters will make chess moves, too. Where do you think this goes from here?

Predictions not certainties

Strategic planning seeks to place scattered available evidence into a logical sequence or pattern, such as demonstrated in the H.R. 2694 example. Strategic planning objectives include an organization’s decision when to act on evidence while uncertainties exist. GM rolled out an EV in 2003 but was uncomfortable and quickly backed out of the EV market. Tesla’s risk tolerance was higher, and it entered the EV market in 2003 when GM withdrew. Tesla is now being rewarded for its early commitment to the EV market. 

Strategic planning considers long-time horizons — 5, 10 or more years — as opposed to annual OHS plans for goals and objectives. Strategic planning, with OHS consideration, are best built into an organization’s ISO 45001 context clauses. Greater uncertainties accompany early recognition of sequence or patterns. Most organizations, however, benefit from the longer consideration and planning time for threats and opportunities that accompany predictions of disruption. Most importantly, strategic planning is about predictions, not certainties.

One certainty: amid the disruptions of 2020 and beyond, there are multiple reasons why OHS is on the rise.