An oft heard excuse for poor planning (and poor execution), is that there is no such thing as a crystal ball. In other words, you cannot foresee the future, and thus all plans are notional at best.

I much prefer Peter Drucker’s view on this, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” The energy and leadership at the foundation of Drucker’s quote remind us that for all the things we can’t possibly know for certain, we absolutely can be proactive, forward-looking, inspiring, and have a bias for action.

In other words, we can create our very own crystal ball.

So how is this done? How can we as leaders confidently set a direction, select a strategy, and motivate our employees to create the future we desire?

First, gain clarity by answering three questions:

  1. Why do we exist?
  2. How must we collectively behave to fulfill our purpose?
  3. What is our inspiring painted picture of the future?

Secondly, use this clarity to carefully select from the never-ending stream of business opportunities, recruit people who fit your culture, and mobilize this talent to execute a winning competitive strategy.

Make Smart Choices

“More organizations die of indigestion than starvation.” David Packard knew the death of an organization is more likely due to juggling too many opportunities rather than focusing on too few. Most businesses are faced with a wide array of potential business opportunities to pursue, and you must select carefully. If you are undisciplined in your selection you will likely suffer the disastrous consequences of chasing too many shiny objects at once. This is where clarity of purpose comes in. While many business opportunities beckon, a minority will be truly aligned with your purpose. You must say NO to those that don’t fit, regardless of whether they are doable, potentially profitable, or appear exciting. Staying focused allows you to leverage all the passion and energy you and your employees have for your purpose, and to execute successfully.

Attract People Who Fit

People who are passionate about your purpose, share your core values, and are excited about the future of your company, are the only people you should employ. All others will demonstrate minimal engagement, and likely drag down the highly engaged employees who do fit your culture. Use your Core Values to define and protect your culture, and leverage these shared values to create your desired future.

Envision the Future

An envisioned future aligned with your purpose and core values will energize and motivate all of your employees, or at least the ones that fit. If it is inspiring enough, and the gap with current reality large enough, it creates a tension for change that will drive the transformation necessary to reach your desired future state.

How does this allow you to predict and create the future of your business?

  • Clarity of Purpose compels you to say no to most opportunities and focus on those few aligned with your purpose, for which there is a high probability of executing well.
  • Clarity of Core Values compels you to recruit and retain only those people who will be truly engaged and energized in the execution of your long-term strategy.
  • Envisioned Future will create a tension for change and give all of your energized employees the motivation to reach the future they are excited about.

So there you have it – you may not always be able to predict the exact path, but you CAN build a culture capable of proactively executing strategy, and create the future you desire.

Who needs a crystal ball when you’ve got clarity, passion, energy, and highly engaged employees?

Article by John Leduc