The Value of Thinking about the Future instead of the Past


November 2, 2015

I was just talking with a manufacturing client on the topic of SIOP (sales, inventory and operations planning). In their case, they have an incredibly stable business – it is the most predictable business I’ve ever run across in terms of sales forecasts. Even though the numbers vary by month, they are surprisingly reliable – and even more so when looking across a few months. Thus, we had downplayed the importance of the forecast in their case; however, in conversation today, we decided to resurrect the idea of looking forward. Driving with both eyes in the rearview mirror is not a recipe for success. In our case, to bring about a nice step forward, we need to start thinking forward instead of backwards. As I left, I thought – isn’t this true across the board? Why are these truisms so easy to forget?

I also recently participated in a strategy session about my business. Certainly looking in the rearview mirror provides some helpful information on revenue and cost trends for comparison purposes but if I plan based upon the past, I will not grow! Thus, we looked forward to create the future and then looked backwards to see what types of resources and tools I had at my disposal to determine what needed to be done to achieve the future vision. Are you looking at your future or stuck in the past?

One tip to implement this week:
As I found today in talking with my client, the great thing about this topic is that you can accomplish a lot by simply remembering to “think about the future”. Include conversations about the future in key meetings. Talk with your employees about the future. After all, how will they be able to build the right skills if they have no idea what is needed in the future? Look at forecasts. Predict important trends. One simple rule of thumb is to track how much of what you do and talk about on a daily basis is related to the past vs. the future? Of course you should look at the past for how to resolve root causes; however, innovation only works by looking forward. Write yourself a sticky note! Soon, your work life might even become more interesting!