To be successful, leaders need to develop and hone their business foresight. Used effectively, foresight focuses our attention on the time and space between the immediate, day to day tactical execution and the long-term strategic vision and planning.
Foresight in Action
Foresight involves thinking through our actions and behaviors and planning ahead to see the potential short-term, medium-term and long-term problems or consequences of these actions. In simple terms: we need to think twice before doing once.
When we use foresight effectively, we:
- Think through all the implications and complications of an issue
- Consider how employees or customers will react to an action, today and over time
- Think through competitor reactions
- Reflect on the possible unintended consequence of our actions or behaviors
The Benefits of Foresight
- Better Execution: As the cartoon shows, by using foresight and planning ahead, we can better get the job done.
- Seeing a Problem Before It Becomes a Problem: If we see a problem before it is a problem, we are able to modify our course of action or we could focus on…
- Nipping the Problem in the Bud: With foresight, we can defuse issues before they become issues. This usually involves proactive communication to address issues before they fester and/or magnify.
- Discovering an Opportunity: With foresight, we may be able to detect a business opportunity before our competition.
How to Develop Foresight
Developing foresight comes from experience and learning. Full stop.
Before any course of action or important conversation, we just need to spend the time to:
- Think through the issues and possible unintended consequences that might occur in the short, medium and long term
- Consider the possible reaction of stakeholders (employees, other leaders, suppliers, competitors, the press)
- Role play (in our heads or with a fellow employee or supervisor) different scenarios that might arise due to the course of action
- Develop a plan to avoid or mitigate the issues and consequences and to address the concerns of stakeholders
Developing strong business foresight is a crucial step in leadership development. As leaders progress from front line managers to CEO’s, our attention shifts from what is happening today to what will happen in one week, in one month, in one year, and then finally at the most senior level, to what might happen in five years. Without effective foresight, leaders will not be able to make this shift in attention. Instead, we will remain focused on the day to day problems, limiting our career advancement and the potential and success of our businesses.