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Off Peak

Fortnightly Magazine - July 1 1996

A few utility executives claim to sleep untroubled by the future of their companies. Most, however, admit to some tossing and turning engendered by concern over competition and the complacency of coworkers.

What, if anything, are they doing about it?

A survey of 117 PUBLIC UTILITIES FORTNIGHTLY subscribers reveals that American utility executives are asking themselves all the tough questions about the future of their operations. It also reveals a widespread sense of urgency in the search for answers. "Are we moving fast enough?" is the question that keeps many executives awake at night.

Most of the actions planned by utility leaders mirror those undertaken by other industries over the last decade. To a large extent, this will mean restructuring and reengineering of the organization. Beyond these measures, utility execs are focusing on customer satisfaction and market analysis. With geographical service areas no longer sacrosanct and competitors in their own backyards, many utility efforts are aimed at retaining and/or increasing market share. These efforts are prioritized in Chart 1.

Industry leaders share an overriding concern about their company's ability to change with the times. Many survey respondents contrasted the "utility mentality" with the corporate culture of competitive, market-driven organizations. Utility executives have very different ideas about how to effect such a culture change, however (see Chart 2).

Although only a small part of the data collected, these findings clearly reveal an industry that is looking ahead, not asleep at the wheel. t

Geoffrey M. Edelman and C. Richard Gwinn co-direct the utility practice of Kepner-Tregoe, Inc., a Princeton, NJ, management consulting firm specializing in organizational change and decisionmaking. Of the executives who participated in their 1995 Utilities Industry Study, 31 percent were executive vice presidents, senior vice presidents, and vice presidents; 18 percent were presidents, chairmen, or CEOs; 37 percent were managers, general managers, or directors. The largest portion of respondents work at electric or gas utilities (73.5 and 56.4 percent, respectively). A complete copy of the study may be obtained by calling (609) 252-2630.

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