The future is built one moment at a time. One decision, one behavior, one action at a time. The culmination of these instances gets stacked upon and next to each other like building blocks, creating a pathway that is multi-pronged, multi-faceted, and dauntingly complex to us at the beginning of our journeys. In many ways, it is nearly impossible to predict exactly where this path will lead with 100% certainty, but this will be especially true if we are not strategically thinking about it in the first place.
When thinking strategically about the future, it is important to do so with a purpose in mind. Our purpose will help to keep a shining light down the road, creating positivity and commitment along the way. This will be our true north to make sure we avoid straying and working on things that ultimately don’t matter.
From there we need to clarify where we currently are in this pursuit. Identifying and being honest with our current results is a critical step to strip things back to see with a clear mind to build the necessary processes to produce the results we seek.
Then we need to consider the behaviors and actions of those who surround us within our sphere of influence and those who influence us. These are the people we will need on our side and connected to our purpose and the vision we are building.
Do we leverage our top performers? Often they are already innovating and too frequently we, as leaders, are focusing our energy on the under-performers on our team and ignoring the amazing behaviors of our top performers. Spend time with them. Ask them questions about what they are doing and avoid the urge to always provide direction. Be open and encourage collaboration, while celebrating and recognizing innovations. Synergy is critical here, so intentionally create opportunities to get your top minds together to brainstorm and think creatively. The outcome of two or more minds working together will always outperform those same minds working independently.
Once we have this sturdy foundation, we need to begin looking at the objectives. Of course, we need to have the destination carved out so that we know what success looks like, but equally as important are the steps along the way. Defining key milestones to be achieved helps to ensure that we are heading in the specific, strategic direction toward our objectives, or they create predetermined moments to re-evaluate and course-correct if needed.
Here are some tips from a Gapology Angle that we need to consider:
Close the Knowledge Gap
What are you achieving now and what do you want to achieve?
What milestones need to be established?
How does this connect to your purpose?
What involvement needs to happen from the people around you?
What behaviors need to be put in place to re-examine your progress and behaviors to course-correct?
Close the Importance Gap
Why is achieving the objective important?
What will happen if you achieve it?
What will happen if you don’t?
What will be the impact on your customers, team members, and organization?
What will be your priorities? In what order will things need to happen?
Close the Action Gap
What needs to happen right now to get things moving?
What do you need to do to create momentum through accountability? (Recognition, coaching, etc.)
As they said in the movie, The Terminator 2: Judgment Day, "The future is not set. There is no fate but what we make ourselves.” We own the power to impact it at the beginning of our pursuit and during the vast number of steps along the way. We must know what the destination looks like, know what specific steps we will need to take to get there, while also establishing methods to course-correct, as we will most certainly need to do that many times throughout the journey.
If we fail to plan, we plan to fail. I’m sure you have heard that statement before and it is certainly true. With your purpose as your compass, strategically look at your objective. Ask yourself, What do you need to know, why does it matter, and what do you need to do? Then when you begin involving your team, communicate those things to them as well to close all Performance Gaps.
Future-focused strategic thinking takes work and dedication to the process. Begin by establishing blocks of time for it in your schedule and remain committed to it. Your commitment to being strategic and focused, yet flexible, will be key to your success.
*Listen to our discussion on this topic on our Gapology Radio Podcast: https://www.gapology.org/podcast/episode/1f3df99c/future-focused-strategic-thinking