Do you have an eye to the future?  Don’t just answer yes and move on.  Take a few moments to consider this question.

In today’s Amazon-impacted world, if you miss a few months buried in your isolated internal world no matter the reason, you might miss a noteworthy event, trend or comment that could put you behind the 8 ball with no hope of catching up.

A 3-5 year strategy session once a year NO longer cuts it.  We are all in a strategic sprint.  In most industries, even going beyond one year out is a wasted exercise.  Instead, we should keep an eye to the future and build agility into our strategy setting process.  So, what are some ways we can keep an eye to the future?

  1. Pick up the phone and call a customer – Those clients who talk frequently to their top customers are far more successful than those who don’t.  Of course everyone is busy.  Offer value and make it is your customer’s best interest to keep in touch.  You’ll know more about what’s going on in the marketplace than those buried in month-end numbers, Board meetings and strategy sessions. 
  2. Attend an industry conference – Why do all the work yourself?  Network with those who are uniquely positioned to keep track of the latest trends and what might impact your industry.
  3. Have lunch with an old alumni friend – You might wonder how this would help if your friend isn’t in a related field or isn’t a business owner or executive.  Keeping an eye on what’s happening in the world around you and gaining insights from trusted colleagues in different industries can provide some unique perspectives you won’t gain anywhere else.
  4. Involve your team in keeping an eye to the future – Certainly, if you provide the vision to your team (no matter the level), explain how the company is performing and encourage them to keep an ear to future trends, people will be happy to contribute to success.  We find that the best trends can come from unlikely places – the secretary you didn’t even notice or the person shipping orders who talks with UPS drivers.
  5. Watch the latest trends globally, economically– We are often surprised by how seemingly unrelated events throughout the world will impact suppliers, transportation channels, exchange rates or something else that will have a direct impact on business.  Subscribe to newsletters that can keep you up-to-speed on highlights, read the Wall Street Journal, talk with colleagues etc.
  6. Go visit a supplier– Don’t assign this to your procurement professionals solely.  Suppliers and trusted advisors can provide a wealth of knowledge that can help you navigate your path forward successfully.
  7. Join a CEO or key executive group – The problem with being at the top is that there is no one to talk to.  Find a new group of peers to ask the hard questions and keep you on track.

When you have a good idea of the future, you will position your company, your people, your processes, your infrastructure, your supply chain and more for success!