Copyright 1997 AXIS Performance Advisors, Inc.
The new year always gets us thinking of the future.
This is especially true as the millennium looms closer. While none of us
has a crystal ball, we all recognize that our future success depends on
our ability to anticipate and prepare for what’s coming. How good are you
and your leaders at preparing your organization for the 21st century?
Ask any executive what they’re doing to prepare
for the next century, and most likely you’ll hear a litany of buzzwords
including reengineering, high-performance teams, restructuring, mergers,
outsourcing. We’re ready, they say. We’re doing all we can. We’ve got it
Maybe they do and maybe they don’t.
Don’t get me wrong. All these improvement strategies
have their place. They can all radically improve your productivity. So what’s
“A good deal of corporate
planning…is like a ritual rain dance. It has no effect on the weather
but those who engage in it think it does….Moreover, much of the advice
related to corporate planning is
directed at improving the dancing, not the weather.”
Brian Quinn, Dartmouth
All these strategies focus on doing what you do
better. But your future success will be determined by your ability to do
something radically different. Don’t believe me? According to Don Tappscott,
author of The Digital Economy, most of Hewlett-Packard’s revenues come from
products that didn’t exist a year ago and 90 percent of Miller’s revenues
come from beers that didn’t exist 24 months ago. Executives need to spend
roughly an equal amount of time envisioning their future business as they
do improving their current one. Few executives do.
To get a sense of how much change is in store for
us, consider how different life was in 1982, only fifteen years ago. Think
back to where you were. Reagan was president. We’d just come out of the
energy crisis. The Berlin Wall was still up and the Cold War was still waging.
“To effectively ‘manage’
the strategy-making process, then, is not to preconceive strategies
but to recognize their emergence and intervene when appropriate.”
The Rise and Fall of Strategic
Now imagine as much change in the next ten years.
Remember, the pace of change is increasing.
How do you plan for discontinuous, radical change?
Many don’t try. But according to Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad, authors of
Competing for the Future, there are three kinds of companies: drivers, passengers,
and road kill. Only the drivers have any control over the direction of change.
and perseverance are driven by the desire to make a difference in
people’s livesthe bigger the difference, the deeper the commitment.”
Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad,
Competing for the Future
Being in control of your future requires that you
establish foresight about where your industry is going and develop strategies
to control or influence its future. If you do not do this, your competitors
will, and then they can position themselves to benefit the most. You have
three choices to become an industry leader.
Notice that increasing market share is not on this
list. If you want to be an industry leader long-term, you can’t get there
by just doing more of the same.
Most people define market leadership as being the
first to market and the biggest in the market. However, true leadership
is determined not just by market predominance, but by two other attributes
as well. And these two additional attributes must be in place before an
organization can gain market supremacy. The order in which they must be
You must be able to envision a realistic future
for your organization that is radically different from what you do now.
Imagine, for example, that you own Hollywood Video. Your business involves
people coming to your stores to rent videos. You own millions of prime retail
square footage. What happens when customers can download Robocop XX directly
off the Internet or from their cable provider on demand? Will they still
want to come by your store, just for old times sake? I doubt it. So what
is the future of the video/entertainment industry?
Next, you must develop the capacity, often across
traditional industries, to position yourself for that future. What technologies
will Hollywood Video need to compete? Should they get into the cable TV
business, learn about satellite technology, or develop CD-ROM capabilities?
What industry lines must they cross to develop the core competencies necessary?
Finally, you must get to the future first and become
the world leader, for in the global market place, only a world-wide presence
will provide the preeminence necessary for leadership. To remain a leader,
Hollywood Video will need to deliver entertainment in Beijing and Nome just
as easily as in your home town.
Try This: It’s better than twenty-questions
Here’s a set of questions we suggest you ask your
Then analyze their answers:
Source: Competing for the Future
Thinking in the future tense takes time and practice.
Ironically, most leaders are “too busy” managing day-to-day matters
to do this visioning work. But you can’t be an effective driver if all your
attention is on the gas gauge. Unless you’ve got your eyes on the road and
the horizon beyond, you’ll likely end up in a ditch.