Andy Singer 2016-12-09 07:25:54
If you’re a business owner or a senior executive, providing foresight is one of the most important aspects of what you do for your organization. Spend enough time to envision your company’s future and make it a continuous process. One of the greatest challenges of leadership is determining what your organization’s future will be. Envisioning what the organization should look like and where you should focus to get there is not always easy to determine. Your wager can have a significant effect on the future value of your company and the satisfaction of your stakeholders. To be successful, we have to understand how to develop and execute long-term, value-creating strategies. Developing foresight is necessary, although not always easy or obvious. Here are seven ways to envision your company’s future: 1. Start with what you know: The first place to start is gathering and organizing what you do know. This may sound obvious, but often I walk into organizations that do not have this information organized. Another common challenge is that a senior executive gives the order to develop a strategic plan. The plan is then frantically assembled in four weeks, but with strategic planning you generally get out what you put in. A better method is to spend time every week of the year gathering, organizing and updating the key required information. The executive in charge of your strategic plan should be someone with significant product management and marketing experience. “Amateur hour” in this area will be costly to your organization in the long run and possibly sooner. 2. SWOT: Once you have enough information organized, your team should perform a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. This is a classic tool used by product mangers to better understand product lines and markets. Often, keys about your best future strategies can be found by understanding how your market will change in these areas and what trends are expected. Then determine how you can innovate and transform your organization to make use of those changes. Be sure you take an honest assessment when you perform your SWOT analysis. Getting this correct and accurately seeing trends can allow you to be ready well before your competitors. Ensure that you understand how your organization will be different in the future. Many businesses merely react to changes in their markets. 3. Know what you don’t know: One of the most common errors I have seen in the process of envisioning an organization’s future has to be the failure to understand there are things you don’t know. Making assumptions can lead to significant errors in judgment, which will be costly to the outcome of your strategy. Know what you don’t know. 4. Identify problems and risks: I enjoy investing, and one of the key areas I focus on prior to making an investment is to understand the potential problems and risks. As you may have, too, I learned how important this is the hard way. Always ask what might go wrong and understand how your organization can plan or react to those scenarios. You should also think about what problems your customers and your customers’ customers will face going forward. Finding creative solutions to those challenges can allow you to develop unique and strong future solutions for your market. 5. Understand your differentiators: Successful businesses have a unique solution, offering or service that their competition cannot easily provide. This is the basis of differentiation and the path to greater profits. Ensure that you understand how your organization will be different in the future. Many businesses merely react to changes in their markets. The most profitable and successful businesses create the market demand. With the technology we have available today, even a small company can transform the market and be a disruptor. 6. Plan to be transformative: Being transformative means to change, not just a little, into something different. Whenever I have taken over a business, we became transformative. We transformed the business into something different. Strive to be an organization that somehow provides value to the end users. No one asked Apple for an iPod, but Steve Jobs was transformative and Apple was wildly successful as a result. 7. Envision your future: Having foresight and considering the points mentioned will allow you to envision the future of your organization. By envisioning your future and communicating these plans to your team, you will be significantly ahead of most of your competitors. Keep in mind, a vision and strategic plan is not just a set of numbers. I was working with a company once and asked the vice president of sales and marketing about its strategic plan. He said he had one, and I said I would love to see it. What he showed me was a spreadsheet with sales and profit numbers. That is not a strategic plan. You need a detailed plan on how you are going to get there. This should include goals, actions, due dates and responsibilities. You should also be sure that part of this future vision includes what skills or types of people you need your team to grow into. Then, get help from the outside to develop your human capital. You also need to consider if the future will require any changes in your corporate culture. A culture is like a strong gravitational force — extremely hard to overcome. It will take work and often help from the outside. Any culture shift will require a charismatic and experienced team made up of both internal and external representatives. Don’t minimize the challenge in changing cultures — most executives fail doing so. Even though what you are doing may be good for the company, possibly saving it, we are all human, and change is tough. When we get stressed, most of us want to go back to the familiar. This will include your managers and your employees. Don’t forget, people respond better when you tell them why and when they feel ownership. Yes, planning for the future is challenging, but providing foresight is one of the most important aspects of what senior executives do for an organization. Ensure you are spending enough time to envision your company’s future and make it a continuous process. Foresight requires analytical and creative thinking, and it requires experience. Ultimately, obtaining help from an experienced outside expert can greatly increase your odds of success. Although we cannot predict the future precisely, we can envision scenarios and plan for the future. Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail. Plan for your organization’s future and inspire your team to greatness. Andy Singer is president of Singer Executive Development. The company offers training courses in executive management, product management and microwave systems. An electrical engineer with an MBA, Singer is a former president of RadioWaves. He writes “Down to Business,” a syndicated newspaper column. His email address is andy. email@example.com.
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