Timely foresight requires timely hindsight

Timely foresight requires timely hindsight

In a recent article, McKinsey set out the challenges facing CEOs in the current economic maelstrom – ‘Businesses need new approaches to build the resilience required in these decisive times, through a perceptive response to current challenges, foresight to anticipate the next round of disruptions, and capability for adaptation that will set the business on a foundation for successful growth…..No crisis is ever the same as the previous one; neither can it be managed in the same way.’

The idea that we should change during success but actually only do change during crisis captures the history of organisational change and its practice. It also points to the dilemma that is facing contemporary organisations, which is that if you wait until crisis before you begin to change in our complex and dynamic world, you are likely to be too late. That is, to get change started you have to overcome inertia, defined as the inability of the organisation to change as rapidly as the environment. In essence, an inertial understanding of change says than until a gap becomes apparent between the organisation and the environment that is sufficiently wide to generate a sense of urgency / burning platform, there is little or no motivation to change.

When is change needed in a business?

It is when an organisation is out of balance, out of fit with its environment, that changes need to take place in organisation design and associated behaviours. This is especially difficult for successful organisations that have ritualised success by building structures and behaviours designed to retain that success. Growing issues are not apparent (why change a winning formula?) because they are not believed, and therefore not seen.

Life is lived forwards but has to be understood backwards. That is to say, understanding follows action – and this is the conundrum for leaders who need an increasingly rapid understanding of ‘what’s the story here?’ (hindsight) in order to improvise plausible foresight.

How to develop foresight

Developing foresight rather than hindsight means leaders need to use all the resources available to them, including the intelligence and ability of their people through whose talents, opportunities and threats can be identified, communicated and acted upon. Knowing what and when it is the right time to act is the holy grail of leaders the world over.

The core purpose of the Tensense diagnostic is to provide leaders with accurate hindsight, in order that they can create intelligent foresight as they move their organisations forward (perching for purpose before resuming flight). This approach perfectly complements the needs of executives grappling with complex issues in complex environments and for whom ‘ambiguity is the enemy of execution’ (Stephen Kelly, former CEO Sage PLC).

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash