"The Future is Ours"
Darrel L. Hammon, Ph.D.
Some years ago, I wrote: “Put simply: the future leaders are you and
me, and we must lead on, we must be visionary, and we must learn the
power and energy of the whole.” Since you and I are the leaders who
must be visionary, I now ask the question: have you thought of yourself
as a futurist?
During my doctoral program, I took an
enlightening course from Dr. Gary Delka on strategic planning. While
this course focused particularly on educational practitioners who were
in the throes of restructuring, I sincerely believe the fundamental
principles have equal relevance for business owners, especially those
who are seeking some connection to the future. I wish to discuss five
principles of viewing into the future. While these five do not encompass
the entire strategic planning process, they represent basic principles
of looking at ourselves as planners and visionaries.
Following a formula for success—Ironically,
planning is formulaic. Normally, planning does not just occur. Perhaps
some of you have experienced instant success without much planning, but
most of us have to plan for it. Consider this formula: p x f = pr.
Simply, this formula is “the past interacting with the future equals the
present.” If you truly want to compete in the future, this formula
should be followed as you strategically plan your future restructuring.
Remember: reform is cosmetic; restructuring, on the other hand, is
changing the way we do business.
Scanning to see who you are and what you are about—An
important ingredient of looking at the future hinges on scanning. All
stakeholders need to be involved, looked at, or even visited.
Stakeholders include customers, internal and external. Additionally, you
must look at what the competition is doing. Analysis of critical issues
also plays an integral part of the scanning process. Certainly there
are issues that are relevant to your future plans. Bottom line is
scanning is taking a look at yourselves, your customers, the
competition, and any critical issues that might become barriers in your
quest to compete in the future.
Recognizing the present but be willing to go beyond—Many
of you have heard of the story about the man who loved to drive his
sports car on country roads. One day he was driving out in the country
when he approached his most favorite curve. But before he got there, he
saw another car coming toward, swerving back and forth, almost out of
control. When the car passed him, the woman yelled out, “Pig!” Thinking
her comment as rude, he yelled back, “Cow!” Still fuming how could she
call him such a sour name, he roared into the curve and ran right into a
pig. Instead of thinking beyond his own narrow paradigm, he failed to
listen to the warning, thus causing him to crash into a pig. Are you
listening and recognizing present warnings that might impede you from
performing in the future?
Using the information available—Driselli
once said, “As a general rule, the most successful man is the one with
the information and uses it effectively.” Our current world spits out
information much faster than we can assimilate it. This can cause a
problem if we do know how to gather the information that is relevant to
our business. As information thunders down the conveyor belt, we must be
there to pick off the data that pertains to us. That means, we must
know from our scanning what information is relevant to the future growth
of our business. Often that information comes from within our own
Looking to the future and taking control of it—Many
of us sit idly by, thinking—and sometimes hoping and praying— the
future might actually pass us by. Unfortunately, if we take this
perspective, the future will engulf us, and it definitely will pass us
by, leaving us to wonder what happen to us or to our businesses. The key
ingredient is that “I am in control of mine own destiny.” Often we
find ourselves being puppeteered by someone or something else. Actually,
“we are the final generation of an old civilization and the first
generation of a new one” (Heidi and Alvin Toffler (1994) in Creating a
New Civilization: The Politics of the Third Wave, p. 21). Basically,
whether you want to believe it or not, the future is upon us.
we must think of ourselves as futurists with the ability to peer into
the future and see ourselves there, in plain and living color. We must
believe we are the ones in control of what we do. Granted, there may be
“things” that emerge that we might not be totally prepared for, but our
renewed ability to analyze and diagnose a problem will help us overcome
these obstacles. More importantly, we must adhere to Virgil’s philosophy
of old: “They can because they think they can.” Therefore, think away
and be successful!