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Keep an eye on the future while righting the ship

SS_Principessa_Jolanda_sinkingIn a crisis, organizations focus inward, and work to put things right.They right the ship as a top priority. 

But in a crisis, the long-term still needs attention. An organization fixing things can come up short in laying the stepwise plans its needs for its desired future. Fixing things is reactive, and reacting is not enough. 

Organizations need to keep foresight in the mix while they right the ship. Foresight doesn’t serve you if you only consider it once in a while, and it doesn’t work to put it off. If you take your eye off the ball, there’s a strong chance something fundamental will change in the landscape while you are tied up correcting things. 

Righting the ship is about catching up with the present, not preparing for the future. But if you are only catching up you are, in effect, falling behind. See also: If you're only keeping up, you're probably going backwards.

In troubled times it's understandable that everyone drops into the trenches and rolls up their sleeves to fix things. You need to do more than that.

What do you need to do?

Even in crisis, leaders must keep an eye toward the future. They need to give time for generative discussions about what’s next. This means planning for the future. It means assuming success with the fixes and aspiring to seize new opportunities in the future. And doing so means taking actions now for those future successes. In short, it means confidence in present action, and a focus on the future.

While you work on the present:

  • Expand awareness of what else is going on that will shape your future
  • Build views of where you’re headed (scenarios)
  • Make a ten- or fifteen-year forward view a part of the conversation
  • Identify how “fixing things” is part of your long-term strategy
  • Don’t fail to take actions now that go beyond righting the ship, they build towards your future

IMAGE: S.S. Principessa Jolanda, 1907, listing badly right after launch. Public domain.

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