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  • Writer's pictureDr. Patrick E. Crawford


Leadership Thoughts | Issue #93

Although I recognize and advocate the importance of reflection, I also value the practice of "forethought" immensely. Forethought is an essential skill for leaders to be successful. Most people do it without realizing it, but the New Year is a perfect opportunity to give forethought and intended purpose as you plan for the future.

Psychologists consider forethought a cognitive tool that, when developed, supports predictions in familiar circumstances. It is not just a cognitive function; it also intertwines emotions and things we care about. When we consider what might happen in the future and construct mental models, our thoughts and subsequent actions become clear. Forethought is something that can be learned and improved,

Sandy Sanchez | Christensen Institute

This article stands out as it overviews three important domains of personal and organizational success to consider when practicing forethought. These domains are from the book How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen, so don't let the article's title – Applying Business Theory to Reflections and Resolutions - fool you. Consider the questions provided for each subtopic to help guide your thinking.

Allocate your resources accordingly

Every resource should be considered when planning for the future- time, money, and people included. It is very common to opt for short-term rewards instead of long-term ones.

However, you can change that dynamic by considering the following prompt questions.

1. What are your resources, and do you intend to use them in 2023? 2. Will the resources be used for long-term or short-term goals? 3. How will you track and adjust your resource allocation?

Don't make the "marginal costs" mistake.

According to Christensen, "just this once" can be dangerous and lead to failed plans. This concept states that doing something that contradicts our goals, even if it appears to have a minimal cost, can have an incredibly negative effect. The author paraphrases Christensen in the following paragraph:

Doing something that contradicts our objectives' just this once may seem slightly innocuous, yet constant or habitual 'just this once' practices can prompt organization insolvencies and crises.

Forethought implies the capacity to know when we are thinking marginally. Everyday decisions will support or violate personal and organizational core values. Doing something that confounds personal or organizational goals just once may have a marginal cost; however, it comes with the expense of giving up integrity.

Here are some questions to consider:

1. Can you anticipate and identify marginal thinking? 2. What are some examples of "just this once" decisions with "marginal costs? 3. How can you tell the difference between marginal thinking and flexible thinking?

Address culture

The phrase "culture eats strategy for breakfast" is often used, and I do believe there is truth in this saying. Leaders of an organization must also remember that what they do, rather than what they say, will define the organization's culture. People, in turn, are characterized by their actions, which determine their culture. An organization's culture is driven instinctively, instead of as a deliberate decision. When you employ forethought, keeping your own and organizational values and beliefs at the forefront is essential.

The following questions may help reflect on your own and organizational goals for 2023:

1. Have you thought about how your core values and beliefs shape the culture? 2. What methods are in place to ensure accountability for your strategies? 3. How will forethought impact the culture of your organization?

Rather than making resolutions as we move into 2023, consider engaging in forethought. Think about what you would like to achieve personally and with your organization. Visualize the perfect situation and plan out what needs to be done—and consider any potential challenges—to fulfill that dream. Consider using forethought and reflection to boost your leadership capabilities and help you succeed.


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