A Vital Virtue Great Companies Have that Most Do Not


Future-orientation is a key element of strategic planning and strategic thinking.

It is a major responsibility of leadership and top people in every area. Only the leader can think about the future. Only the leader can plan for the future. There is no one else in the organization who can do it, and if the leader does not think about and plan for the future as an ongoing part of his job, it will not be done. As they say in Alaska, “Only the lead sled dog ever gets a different view.”

How often and how well the top people in the company think about the future largely determines the success or failure of the business. “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”

The development of the quality of future-orientation requires that you continually create an ideal image of your company some time in the future. You project forward in your mind 3-5 years and imagine that your company is perfect in every respect. You decide exactly how much you would be selling and earning at that time. You imagine your ideal stock price, your ideal reputation in the market, your ideal work situation and your ideal human environment.

Back From The Future Thinking

Once you have a clear picture of your ideal future, you then return mentally to your current situation and think about what you would have to do, starting today, to turn your future vision into a current reality. This is called, “back from the future thinking.”

Make a list of all the things that would have to happen for you to realize your fantasy sometime in the future. It is amazing how your perspective changes when you look back from the future, exactly as if you were looking back from the top of the mountain to yourself down in the valley, and seeing the exact route you will have to follow to get to the top.

Leaders Have Vision

In 3300 studies of leaders reviewed by James MacPherson, searching for the common denominators of leadership throughout the ages, the one quality that all the studies had in common was the quality of vision. Leaders have vision; non-leaders do not.

To become a visionary requires that you develop the ability to imagine, define, articulate, share and inspire other people with an exciting picture of the future. You get everyone in your business committed to fulfilling this vision, and to working toward it every day. This is the key to leadership, and to building a great company. Aristotle wrote, “We become what we repeatedly do.” You become a leader by thinking the way leaders think, both in your business and in your personal life. You become a leader by thinking about the future, and how you can make it a present reality.

Create An Exciting Picture

In the Bible it says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” This doesn’t mean that they lie down and die. It just means that they lose heart. They lose their commitment and enthusiasm to giving of their best. When their managers do not clarify and articulate an exciting vision for the company, people just go through the motions at work, doing only what they need to do to keep their jobs.

Unfortunately, many companies have no vision at all. They may have started with an exciting vision of accomplishing something that had never been done before, but over time, buffeted by the waves of a stormy and turbulent market, they have lost sight of their reason for existence, to make a meaningful difference in the lives and work of their customers. Instead of continually defining and articulating the vision, the key decision-makers become focused on day-to-day operations. They think only about survival. They even say that they don’t have time for the vision thing. They are too busy fighting fires.