Beyond the Vision

The future starts today, not tomorrow. - Pope John Paul II Leaders create and own their organization's future.  It's not enough to excel every day in the activities of the moment; organizations must relentlessly build a better future.  A future that advances the greater good of the company or business, its people, and the purpose and value proposition they provide within their domain(s).  It is surprising how many organizations go through life doing the same things they have done for years, even decades, with literally no thought or effort being expended on building better circumstances in the days and years ahead.  It is as though the leaders were parents who never allowed their infant to leave the crib.  It is a terrible abuse of the those who depend on a parent's (and leader's) responsibility to guide, nurture, teach, and develop them so they can succeed in the difficult days beyond.  Yet it is common place in organizations.

The effects are all around us in the news.  Respected, established, and once vibrant organizations whose environments were changing around them while they continued to do the things they had always done: The US Postal Service, The US Secret Service, The Department of Veterans Affairs, Borders, Kmart, Sears, and others.   An organization without its eye on the future will inevitably decline and eventually cease to exist in its present form.  Of course there are other reasons for organizational distress and failure but it's essential that leaders guide their organizations with an eye on the future.

The key to the future is hidden in the organization's and leader's daily routines.  Like almost everything that matters in business and life, the key to everything is what we do every day. I'll spend much more time on this in a later post, but these are key leader actions to guide their organizations into the future.

  • Understand and embrace the vital responsibility to understand, define, and develop the organization for a successful future.
  • Devote daily time to thinking about, understanding, and shaping the company's future.
  • Minimize as much as absolutely possible involvement in the day-to-day "current operations"; the crises, pop up events, and near term issues that are time bandits for every leader.
  • Have a vision.
  • Have a world view of your organization's domain; where does your mission and purpose intersect with the forces of your environment?  Between now and five years from now.
  • Have a viable strategy that is informed by your mission and the forces within your environment.  Ends, ways, and means.
  • Have a planning process that takes the company from strategy to planning to resources and operational execution.
  • Execute your plan.
  • Continually assess your execution against your plan.
  • Adjust and refine your plan and execution.
  • Communicate these things continuously to your people and engage them deeply in developing and doing all of these things.

The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.  It is the job of leaders to look farther than they can see.

The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time. - Abraham Lincoln

Keith Stalder, #39

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