Today the Department for Business is bringing together a large delegation of businesses and representative bodies, including EEF, to discuss what actions the government needs to take to support growth in manufacturing. This is a key strand of the government's new approach to developing its policy agenda for growth over the course of this parliament.
This is no small task - the challenge for government is to develop and implement a strategy for better balanced growth that not only steers our economy through the near term challenges, but also prepares the ground for sustainable growth in the long run. With government relying more heavily than ever on the private sector to deliver growth, it needs to think more like the private sector as it puts together its policy agenda for growth.
So if business were running the growth review how might it approach the task?
- Leading from the front. Firstly the CEO would take ownership, show leadership and ensure all his top team were pulling in the same direction. The CEO would instil a culture change with all parts of the business focused on the growth objectives and their role in achieving it.
- Long-term vision. The starting point is a clear sense of direction; a vision that sets out the company's ambitions for the next five years and good understanding of what the company is trying to achieve and clearly identified growth opportunities.
- Invest. Clearly defined growth objectives will drive investment in the parts of the business that can capitalise on those opportunities and drive growth. Inevitably, this will go hand in hand with decisions on where to reduce costs and refocus efforts.
- Engage the supply chain. Recognising that supply chains are only as strong as their weakest link, business will communicates strategy and opportunities through the supply chain. Success will depend on the supply chain investing and innovating alongside.
- Never be satisfied. Business recognise that there is no such thing as sustainable competitive advantage - achieving the vision requires continual evaluation of decisions - both the company's and what competitors and customers are doing.
So, against the approach the private sector might take the government's record to date is encouraging. It is thinking differently with cabinet-level engagement in the review. There are also the makings of a shared objective in achieving economic growth that is more balanced across the country and between industries - although there hasn't always been consistency about what this will look like in practice.
The initial engagement that is taking place today is also a good start, but this will need to be maintained if the private sector - those companies that will be central to driving growth - have the confidence to invest and grow. But finally, government needs to cement this process - make it part of the government's DNA, not just in this parliament, but beyond.