Monday, March 1, 2010

Positioning For The Future

THEME: New Year, More Challenges

FOCUS: Positioning For The Future

Monday morning: March 1, 2010

Dear friends,

One of the hardest things we have to do as leaders is to cultivate the ability to “look over the horizon.” While day to day operations can trump all strategic initiatives, completing strategic goals can at times blind us to what is happening just over the horizon.

When I teach people about strategic planning in our year long course called the From Vision to Action Leadership Training, I spend considerable time explaining the concept of strategy. I point out that strategy is an extensively premeditated, carefully built, long term plan designed to achieve a particular goal. I also explain that strategy is adaptable by nature due to unforeseen variables presented by an ever evolving market place. Rather than presenting a rigid set of instructions or tactics which has the potential to create organizational vulnerability, strategy needs to promote ongoing evolutionary success.

One important lesson from the last two years is that we live in a more complex and inter-related world than we have often thought about in the past. As The Law of Whole of states, “Change in one part influences and changes all other parts.” We now know this to be true because change in another part of the world or another part of the country can influence and change our world immediately and profoundly. We live at a time where the whole is in motion.

The result of this level of complexity often is contextual blindness. There are days when we get too wrapped up in focusing, monitoring and fixing the parts that we miss seeing the whole. At other times, we can see the whole organization and understand how it is moving strategically. But for me, the critical element in strategic planning and strategic level leadership this winter is to not only to see the whole organization but to comprehend how it is moving within the context of its market environment. It is both the organization and the environment that need to be monitored, because both are evolving, adapting, influencing and being influenced by internal and external factors. Being blind to context can cause the organization to enter into a period called the “hubris born of success”, a concept introduced by Jim Collins in his book, How The Mighty Fall. As he writes, “Great enterprises can become insulated by success; accumulated momentum can carry an enterprise forward, for a while, even if leaders make poor decisions or lose discipline. Stage 1[Hubris Born of Success] kicks in when people become arrogant, regarding success virtually as an entitlement, and they loose sight of the true underlying factors that created success in the first place.”

One of the underlying factors that we need to cultivate this winter is the ability to look over the horizon. We need to know what is happening today and we need to understand what will happen next year, but at the exact same time, we need to focus on positioning the organization for the future beyond 1-2 years out. We need to think about our customers and their changes. We need to think about the shareholders and their expectations and their evolution. We need to comprehend our employees, the ones we have today and the ones we will hire in the future. Because when we do this, we realize that the choices we make strategically this winter have a direct impact on who we will serve in the future, how we will serve them in the future, and whether or not we as a company will be viable in the future.

This week, sit down with your team and hold a “look over the horizon” discussion. To start the proverbial ball rolling, discuss how the make-up and actions of the families that have been created since 2000 are different than previous generations. Then, explore how teenagers now are not national as much as global in their actions and perspectives. Finally, consider what will need to change within your company over time if these millennium families were to become your future customers, and how these global teenagers will become your future employees. If you need help facilitating these discussions, give me a call. Until then, think about looking over the horizon and positioning your organization for the future.

Have a delightful week,


Geery Howe, M.A.
Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in
Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change

Morning Star Associates
319 - 643 - 2257

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