In a recent article, I encouraged managers to define a few, long-term “big ideas” or goals they intend to pursue over time. I did so, because I believe that is the best way for a manager to achieve a real sense of ultimate accomplishment that serves the long-term interest of the organization for which she or he toils on a daily basis.
The ability to generate big ideas or long-term goals, I believe, requires a manager to take the “LONG VIEW”. That is, the ability to think beyond the here and now; to ponder scenarios and ideas that will take time to evolve; to envision a better future or way of doing things and devise a gradual but persistent strategy for getting from here to there; and to cultivate the patience and stick-to-it-tiveness required to succeed. While the ability to do this comes more naturally to some managers, it is possible to train one’s mind to stretch the time horizons in which we think.
Author (“Megatrends” & “Megatends 2000”) and social forecaster John Naisbitt has been advocating the importance of the long view for many years. In his 2006 book entitled “Mind Set”;”reset your thinking and see the future”, he shares the components of the mental framework he says helps him adjust and correct his thinking; a framework that removes mental constraints and helps him get the most out of the information he collects (see PP. XIII and IX). In short, they are his keys to envisioning the future; keys that demand one be able to take and maintain the long view.
Below are some of the chapter headings of Naisbitt’s book that may entice you to read it, revel his framework and provide some idea of how we all can begin to orient our own thinking beyond the here and now:
- “While many things change, most things remain constant”
- “The future is embedded in the present”
- “Focus on the score of the game”
- “Understanding how powerful it is not to have to be right”
- “See the future as a picture puzzle”
- “Don’t get so far ahead of the parade that people don’t know you’re in it”
- “You don’t get results by solving problems but by exploiting opportunities”
- “Things that we expect to happen always happen more slowly”
So why do I believe that taking the long view is so important and valuable for a manager? For me, it really comes down to two things: human nature and the contribution that nature makes to Nesbitt’s final point: things we expect to happen as managers, ardently desire and work tirelessly to achieve, almost always happen more slowly than we would like. These two realities are what tries the patience of even the best managers and explains why so many of the rest simply haven’t the patience and persistence to stick with even a potentially great idea or vision of a better tomorrow.
Many of we humans require time to absorb and fully accept the need for some of the ideas, new initiatives, changes in the way we do things, and grand visions handed down by our superiors. Some of us need way more time than others. Resistance, foot-dragging, and the belief that this — whatever it is — too shall pass, is not uncommon.
The long view helps one not only to envision the future, and better ways to cope with and take advantage of its opportunities, it is essential if we are to keep our focus on our goals in the face of the bumps and setbacks we are likely to face along the way. When some resistance is seen as inevitable and when some setbacks and challenges are accepted as part of any evolutionary process, it is easier to sustain a determined commitment to the end game we desire.
Managers concerned only with actions that can produce immediate results, limit their potential impact on the organizations they serve. By contrast, managers able to take the long view and sustain a dedicated effort over time — an effort designed to overcome whatever obstacles may occur — stand a far greater chance of accomplishing objectives with substantial potential to benefit their organization and the human talent under their charge.