Photo by Dawn Waddell
I was privileged to co-lead a TweetChat yesterday with Lolly Daskal—life coach and inspirational speaker who has taken Twitter chats to a new level with her #LeadFromWithin chats (every Tuesday at 8PM EST). Together with other fellow-Twitter fans, we discussed the topic of Foresight. I hope to write more about this in my next post, but for now I just want to reflect on the importance of foresight for your organization.
Consider some of the organizational decision-making that you have been involved in. What was it like? Did you feel like you were able to choose from several well-researched and fully explored options? Or did you feel that you were hemmed in by circumstances and had to act on the only option that presented itself? If your experience was the latter-which is all too common in organizations-then maybe your organization is suffering from a lack of foresight.
Everyone agrees that the pace of change is speeding up in unprecedented degrees. More unique problems are springing up per interval of time-whether you’re talking about the fiscal year, quarter, or decade-than ever before. Issues demanding decisions are creating growing pressures on the leaders of every domain.
It seems instinctive and even logical in these circumstances to deal with problems according to urgency-but experience demonstrates that this is a self-defeating and pernicious habit. According to this pattern of behavior, problems are added to the order of business only when they have become a crisis-when matters are at such a strait that our options are severely limited.
According to this pattern of organizational behavior, you no longer have a choice between different responses aimed at influencing a yet-pliable state of affairs. There is only one possible reaction, only one direction away from the crisis.
You’re trapped, ambushed, waylaid, by the urgency of the crisis. Your organization is obligated to defer to the tyranny of inevitability. Your leaders will rationalize their actions after the fact by pronouncing that they had no choice.
The truth is that they had no choice because they waited too long to act. This is very different from truly having no choice.
Naturally, we can’t be faulted for actions that were indeed unavoidable. But we can’t justify allowing the situation to fester and grow until we no longer have the freedom to choose among alternatives.
Failure to avert the tyranny of inevitability is evidence of shortsightedness. You can avoid this by making yourself aware of emerging challenges while they can still be shaped. Get into the practice of studying problems BEFORE they’ve become irrevocably defined. Foresight enables you to have freedom of choice.
Now a question.. When you first saw the photo above, what did you imagine it to be? Looking at that photo and trying to discern what it’s of is a lot like the art and science of foresight. The longer you work at it, the better you get. Now click HERE to see the original photo. It’s a photo my wife took in Las Vegas of a pirate’s ship.
Foresight is the ability to separate the noise of information coming our way from the meaningful pieces of insight to put together a picture of the pirate’s ship that is emerging.
What do you think? I’ve been involved in far too many crisis situations where options were severely limited. How can we avoid this? What’s it take to develop foresight in ourselves and in our organizations? Please share your insights in the comments sections below.
Greg Waddell provides consulting services for churches and organizations. Contact Dr. Waddell today at gregwaddell[at]leadstrategic.com to discuss the needs of your organization.