Predicting the Future

Predicting the Future

By Harvey Wade

by: Harvey Wade

How healthy is your organisation going to be this year? Will it be growing or will it struggle to survive? The future is uncertain; that’s good for bookmakers and fortune-tellers, but not good if you are trying to plan for the future.

In my experience, all organisations regularly review their “key numbers”, normally revenue and cost, however, those numbers are in the past, there’s no ability to change what’s happened (legally). What will those numbers be for this month? At best it is intelligent guessing, i.e., forecasting.

Managing your business by your past performance is like driving a car by only looking in the rear-view mirror. You can see what’s happened, but you can only guess what is going to happen, and those guesses are based on what the road looked like previously as you can’t see what’s coming up. The only action left is to hope you guess right and fix the damage when you don’t.

But you can begin to predict the future health of your organisation; there is a way to see into the future. And you already have this capability in your organisation…

In today’s world, most leaders mention innovation and at least try to understand its importance to the future health of their business. However, understanding is not enough. “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” (Credited to Peter Drucker or Alan Kay; I’ll let them fight it out.)

One of the first things that Dave Lewis, Tesco’s new CEO, did was to ask staff for their ideas, indicating to me that the previous CEO wasn’t doing this.  And who would have thought Tesco’s price share would have dropped so fast and they would be the subject of financial investigations at the start of 2014? Fortunes can change very quickly.

So, back to how to predict your future. Ideas from your employees are the strongest indicator of the health of your organisation. If you are getting a lot of ideas internally, your employees care about your business and are trying to make it better. They are responding to customer comments and complaints they hear every day. A workforce that cares will improve your organisation, your role as a leader is to harness and steer that “passion” onto the problems that you can’t solve and are losing you sleep.

If you are not getting ideas from your employees, then where is your improvement coming from, how will you adapt to changes and build for the future? Start worrying…

But before you say every organisation gets ideas and tries to improve, I’m going to interrupt. That may well be happening, but is it expected, coordinated and repeatable? Or is it just by chance that ideas get spotted? If you do not regularly and systematically seek ideas to improve, then you are relying on chance, and remember, the house will always win those games.

To allow innovation to flourish and deliver meaningful results, the whole business and your workforce must be on board. Leaders must understand that the best ideas will not come from the top, but from anywhere in the whole company (or even outside of it). The key for execs is to create a company where ideas are encouraged, heard, valued and implemented. Only then will repeatable, bankable innovation begin to emerge. Only when innovation is regular and expected will the future of your organisation begin to look much healthier.

Chase after ideas, as they will be your future.

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