Six Ways to Focus on the Future Today
By Sarah Skidmore, Construction Executive
Construction executives understand the value in forecasting market trends, planning for growth and seeking expansion opportunities. However, when leaders think of the future, it is often restricted to a vision statement, five-year strategic plan or the annual corporate retreat. How do construction professionals move the future into the present-day business initiatives? This really calls leaders to make a shift in perspective. Thinking of the future must be an ongoing, continual process—instead of an annual agenda item.
What if we compare future-focused leaders to historic explorers? In the book “Futuring: The Exploration of the Future,” Edward Cornish connects the future and history with an analogy of exploration. Cornish writes, “The great explorers dreamed their ships across the seas long before sailing them. In their imaginations, they tested their mettle against snake-infested jungles, blazing-hot deserts, cruel mountains and merciless ice floes. By exploring future possibilities in their imagination, they could anticipate their future needs realistically and prepare for what lay ahead of them. This was productive dreaming.” Connecting this analogy back into the construction industry, how can executives embrace this idea of the future, anticipation and dreaming starting today?
Leaders must truly embrace the value of being future-focused. Construction professionals must understand that this future-focused perspective is not simply a suggestion but rather a necessity to stay competitive. Thinking of the future is not limited to just the major international players in the industry; even the local and regional teams must plan, prepare, expect, learn and dream. Being engaged with the future is a necessity to thrive in the market place but also to simply survive.
How can leaders take this topic of the future and make it applicable today? There are practical tips for leaders in construction companies of all sizes when it comes to a future focus.
Devote the precious resource of time daily. Block out an hour on the calendar every day to focus on strategic projects. It may be the first hour of the workday before the day-to-day happenings begin. It may be the hour following lunch. Whatever the case, schedule time on the calendar and consistently honor that time every day.
The team must understand the value and need for future thinking too. As the leader, encourage the team to integrate the strategic goals of the organization throughout the work environment. This may be on the organization’s intranet, posted in the conference room or even incorporated into daily meetings.
Building buy-in and mutual support for a future focus with the team may take some time. Consider the value in offering a variety of trainings and workshops. Not only does this help engage team members, but it also serves as an avenue to teach and educate team members who may need practical direction in understanding the concept.
From a systematic perspective, providing leadership and teamwork focused on the future strongly relates to information. Make sure that the business offers resources and tools so team members can share and access information. By sharing insights or knowledge, the team is empowered to make decisions that impact the future of the organization.
One of the most important components of leading involves dialogue. In the book “Making Strategy: Mapping Out Strategic Success,” Ackermann & Eden note the difference between communication and comprehension. It is critical, as the leader of the organization, to spend time in dialogue with the team and truly engage the two-way communication process when working through this future-focused work.
From this focus on dialogue, stems the need for a culture of learning and curiosity. Adam Gordon, in his book “Future Savvy,” conveys that there is not an exact science to thinking of the future. Further, it is not possible to think of the future outside of one’s biases. Leaders must be committed to building teams that look for innovation and seek ways to shape the future. A culture of learning is a catalyst for this future focus.
If we know one thing about the future, it is that the future is coming and there is no way to stop time. Applying a future focus to present day practices aids leaders in not only surviving in the future, but thriving. Leaders play an important role in encouraging a future focus today.