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The current market situation is experiencing a sudden transformation caused by the context where various important factors of change are playing out at a global and industrial level.

The main points of discontinuity for the general structure in which the market has moved so far are represented by the speed (of obsolescence of products and services, of new solutions and skills), the environmental and competitive complexity, the uncertainty capable of undermining decisional security due to increasingly tight deadlines and increased possibilities of failure. All factors significantly lower the chances of success of an initiative, going beyond the tolerated entrepreneurial risk or unbalancing the break-even point between the possibility of failure and the possibility of profit.

In the collective conscience there has always been the belief that facing a promising security almost certainly involves a profit (so much so as to give life to the proverb, a synthesis of popular wisdom, “nothing ventured, nothing gained”), however today this solidity is seriously questioned by a substantial number of cases demonstrating the opposite.

Global factors are combined with elements of change at an industrial level, made up of profound changes to production processes, new consumption habits, and new economic models. One of the main impact factors is represented by the growing attention to sustainability, understood in a broad sense and not just environmental, an ecological sensitivity that has forced us to rethink the economy circularly, making it essential to reduce the impact of production plants, and has favored the adoption of sharing consumption, inconceivable only until a handful of years ago and now an unconscious habit of many (think of the spread of AirBnB, Uber or BlaBlaCar).

The adaptive strategies suggested by the resilience capacity of companies (or at least by a survival instinct…) must leverage managerial skills, which strengthen the ability to manage production processes.

According to the survey Managerial Capital and Development Tools conducted in 2019 by the 4Manager Observatory (Confindustria and Federmanager) 41% of the companies interviewed have training activities already planned and 18% implemented or in the process of being implemented. These are small numbers if we focus on the fact that 59% of companies, in the structural context previously outlined, do not think of including training projects among their transformation strategies.

In the same survey, to the question “In the last 12 months, to which training areas have you personally dedicated training and/or self-training time?” most of the managers interviewed responded that they were interested in Innovation management and strategy courses, demonstrating however the awareness of having to fill this gap, but the percentages of people who participated in refresher programs are not high.

The lack, or at least the inadequacy, of managerial skills, will expose companies to the risk of not being competitive and facing change with difficulty. Managers should therefore change orientation, moving from “doing” to “doing and managing” and this entails a change of approach that from the limitations of operations, extends the gaze to the future horizons of transformation. Horizons that are also expanding in a geographical sense, opportunities that Italian companies are still struggling to grasp (despite the initiatives promoted by bodies and institutions such as ICE to enhance Made in Italy), showing a weakness in their ability to deal with internationalization and to face competition from foreign players, both abroad and within national borders.

There are rare cases of companies that face international markets with an efficient strategic approach, with a study of the needs and requests of the foreign target and with the study of solutions aimed at reaching them. From a make-or-buy perspective, some of these companies that are taking important steps in internationalization tend to define some strategic objective areas and to include competent people from those areas in the workforce, reducing the initial training effort (think of the cases of the Triboo digital agency expanding on the Chinese market or of the Florence clothing store, Luisa Via Roma, which has structured its e-commerce team into agile groups distinct by country that personalize the offer and communication based on the different targets).

To update managerial skills and reduce industrial asymmetries between demand and supply of qualified professionals, companies can make use of regional and national tenders: in the planning for the five-year period 2014-2019, more than 10 thousand tenders were promoted, although with considerable heterogeneity regional (which, among other things, does not respond to the stereotype between Northern and Southern Italy), but just over half of the interviewees in the 4Manager research were aware of these initiatives.

Managerial gaps are therefore caused by a variety of reasons ranging from a lack of skills, a lack of understanding of the urgency of change, and a lack of information on the resources available to facilitate the resilience of professionals and companies.

The ongoing transformations make the managerial adaptation of Italian SMEs unpostponable and to do so it is necessary to pay attention to a few but substantial aspects ranging from a new business culture, an interest on the part of the institutions in forming a new public management class that is capable of adapting to change and promoting innovation, employment and competitiveness policies, a strengthening of industrial policies up to a rethinking of the educational system that integrates sensitivity to managerial skills.