Modern Problems, Modern Strategy: An Issues Management Story?

Whether it’s the drop of a “hater’s” tweet, sudden movement on a burdensome tax bill, an upcoming merger,a competitive new generic on the market or even internal miscommunication between departments, modern organizations are always up against challenges that make it difficult to achieve their goals.  

Sound familiar?

In the past, corporate vulnerabilities were primarily limited to the legal structures that governed them—agriculture laws directly impacted agriculture companies, technology laws directly impacted technology companies. Today’s world is different. Thanks to the internet age, industries and countries around the world are more interconnected than ever.  Be it legal, political, reputational or financial implications, issues that companies face today span business units and country borders.

 

The challenge

Not only does this force companies to be the MVP in a global game of whack-a-mole, it necessitates that the mallet come down with force on challenges like expensive corporate strategies and cross-organizational coordination.

When teams identify a new issue facing their company, rarely can it be solved with the soft and simple woosh of an Outlook email. When an executive needs the status on an issue, rarely can she get the whole story from just one person or from a single system of record. This is because the devil is in the [issue management] details, and more times than not, those details are stored across many folders, tools, machines, and for the biggest companies, across jurisdictions.


Real-life example

To understand the multi-faceted nature of corporate issues today, let’s look at  Uber’s acquisition of Jump Bike in April 2018.

The ridesharing behemoth already operates in over 600 cities worldwide, which you can imagine comes with its fair share of issue-management challenges. Wired’s Aarian Marshall notes that “in the past two years, Uber has exited China, Russia, and parts of East and South Asia,” indicating highly volatile legal and regulatory landscapes that will only become more complicated as they expand their products and services.

Uber acquired a completely different business model –dockless bikesharing–with the acquisition of Bike Jump, adding fuel to the [regulatory] fire. This presented both immediately obvious issues, as well as those that they  will uncover over time. While Uber shook up the public transportation industry, dockless bikesharing was even less understood in state capitols than Uber’s legacy ridesharing service, meaning that both the general counsel and the government affairs teams had to work around the clock to identify legal precedence for any cases brought against them, in conjunctions with working to push their own interests through any new legislation that is bound to be introduced over the next session.

 

Reactive vs. Proactive

Companies are always challenged by their ability to proactively manage issues that impact their bottom line, but the bigger challenge arises from unpredictable factors. Going back to our Uber/Jump Bike example, cities like Dallas are already considering city-level ordinances that pose a threat to similar bike companies “that have been operating in the city without regulation since last fall.”

This is something Uber will have to react to, but if Uber manages their issues effectively, they are set up to proactively handle the other factors at play.   Between the marketing and communication that Uber will have  to produce and share in order to get its story straight internally and externally and the operational challenge they face resulting from Jump’s differing business model, Uber has a complex and dynamic set of issues that require the entire enterprise to coalesce around the entire issue—objectives that must be determined through a set of explicit questioning across the organization.

 

Conclusion

All companies have issues. No matter the size of your organization or the goals you’re up against, political uncertainty, instantaneous news cycles, social media and a world that is more interconnected than ever create gaps that put your organization at risk. What differentiates companies that thrive in today’s global, complex landscape from those that don’t is how effectively they are at issues management.


FiscalNote is reinventing how organizations approach issues management. FiscalNote’s issues management platform now brings together data, analytics, and workflow to support all phases of the issues management process – making your organization’s work more powerful.