From Scott Carlberg

People are watching as leaders in South Carolina make important decisions about electricity, both inside and outside the state. The decisions SC leaders make will determine how the state navigates several energy challenges, and is tough work. There are also opportunities for the state to show well in this process.

Let’s be clear, though. The South Carolina electric system itself has been really pretty darned resilient after two hurricanes in a month and a monumental flood several years ago. Not to mention our challenging summer hot weather. Power resilience, supply and reliability are doing well.

That is the performance of the electric system, but organizational issues in South Carolina’s electric industry are in the headlines and require attention:

  • Resolving the V.C. Summer Nuclear issue
  • Deciding Santee-Cooper ownership
  • Addressing a smaller SC co-op’s board upheaval and broader fallout

None of these issues is simple. There are potholes to avoid. The decisions can, however, be managed in a way that invites real respect. That depends on the timeliness and wisdom of the responses.

Here are some business practices that can be worth following as state leaders decide these energy issues.

Embrace change. Don’t run from change, embrace it. The U.S. electric cooperatives 2017 business meeting had good advice about change. “In an era of rapid technological and political change, though, there’s no reason for the model to stay static.” (Source) That is from a national cooperatives association itself. Worth noting.

Analyze business change with the head, not the heart. Said the Harvard Business Journal, “In making divestiture selections, the best companies are studiously unsentimental, sometimes jettisoning businesses with long and storied histories.” Even if an organization has longtime ties to the state, or if there are well-worn business practices, the current business environment may need a different road to success.

Focus: Companies are focusing on what they do well and where they can be most effective. Business headlines report organizational changes, many with names you know – General Electric, Campbell’s Soup, for instance. They divest business lines that are not a core competency. Seventy percent of business leaders said they plan to shed parts of their companies for that reason (Source). “Divestiture can be an extremely smart strategic move by allowing a growing company to devote maximum resources to its core offerings…” (Source) That is focus.

What is the core competency of a state government? What should it do, and not do. as part of its mission? What can it do well? The answer takes careful analysis; aligning with that answer requires decisiveness.

Stay current: Leaders stay informed so they reach the best results. About one SC electric issue, one SC House member said in the Charleston Post and Courier, “I believe we are paying the price for our inability to stay on top of things and be proactive.” That’s a pretty forthright statement. Staying current does not suggest that the government steps in at a heightened level. That can add layers to an organization, rarely, if ever efficient. If an umbrella organization is not keeping an eye and staying informed, that is a gap, a signpost that something may be very broken. In that case, see the points above about embracing change and focus.

Apply these concepts…

Do these management concepts apply to the state when it comes to the immediate questions in the South Carolina energy industry? If they do, how to execute them well?

There may be people who say that business and government are just too different and similar rules should not apply. Certain rules actually seem universal in organizations: Resources (money) are allocated among divisions that are supposed to deliver a product or service in the most efficient way possible. If they don’t do that, change it.

As South Carolina leaders consider Santee Cooper, the nuclear plant, and governance in smaller electric organizations, note that each headline makes an impression outside the state. With communications being what they are today the world can watch this process in action – Wall Street, corporate relocation experts, small business owners, potential homeowners, for instance.

South Carolina leaders have started forward steps to resolve these electric industry issues. Don’t rest now. Advance these issues in a thorough, expedited and professional way. Build a positive momentum that benefits everyone interested in the success of South Carolina. People cheer for diligence and courage. People enjoy a success story, but that story has to be written.