Managing the Future

Managing the Future

One of the things that scares people about change is that, by definition change is future oriented, no one knows the future, and they have the fear of the unknown. It probably all sounds perfectly understandable. It is easier to talk with the knowledge of hindsight than to speak with foresight. Yet any leadership role requires the person having that role to manage the future.

One may ask how the future can be managed if it is an unknown quantity. Again this is a perfectly understandable perspective. It is always more comfortable speaking about the past and possibly the present. They are certainly more familiar than the future. In fact if we were to examine carefully how we spend our time, we would find out that we spend most our time managing the past, sorting out yesterday’s problems. We never seem to find time to think about the future.

What a seemingly fantastic excuse! We are too busy to think about the future and so we believe that we are absolved from doing so. The point is that we do not think about the future not because we do not have time but because we do not like to. We always find time for the things that we like to do in life. So it is not a question of time but a question of attitude.

To illustrate how true this is, think of the problems that you had to solve yesterday. Thinking objectively, how many of them could have been foreseen and / or prevented, but which were not? Taking it further, think of at least one situation that you can foresee becoming a problem in the future if you do not address it. The odds are that you can probably think of three or four not just one situation. Once we have identified such situations, one can think of starting to manage the future.

This means that instead of being at the mercy of the waves, we start to ride the waves. This applies to any leadership situation, in business, in government, in our lives. Do we have the attitude to seek to anticipate what the future may bring? Do we adopt the concept that “prevention is better than cure”? We cannot prophesy the future, but we can seek to forecast it.

With the knowledge of hindsight, there is generally a belief that a smartphone has made life more convenient. Whoever developed it is considered a genius. The person was probably considered foolish when one first came out with the idea. Steve Jobs  of Apple  fame was reported to have told the students of Stanford University, the university he had dropped out of, “Stay hungry, stay foolish”.

If we were stop for a minute and think of how many other things we can do without, because we have a smartphone, we recognise how important it is to manage the future. If I had a factory making alarm clocks, I would have found myself faced with dwindling demand. And I can think of more than thirty items that I can do without, like the alarm clock, because I have a smartphone.

We also need to manage the future of the Maltese economy. We cannot simply congratulate ourselves for having achieved good economic growth. With the way the Maltese economy has performed in recent years, what could be the social, environmental and the economic consequences in the future?

Today we take membership of the European Union and the euro zone for granted. However we are reaping the benefits of two decisions taken without the benefit of hindsight but in the belief that the future needs to be managed.

Lawrence Zammit – Director