Business Advice

Dive into your organisation’s ‘what is’ — because you can’t get ‘there’ if you don’t know where ‘here’ is

Michel Hogan /

Where do we want to go next year, in three years, five years, 10 years? Thinking about the imagined future captures a chunk of an organisation’s focus. Instead, however, we should consider what might be learned from shifting some of this focus to ‘what is’?

‘Well, that’s no fun’, I hear you say, ‘we deal with what is every day’. So instead you go check out the blue sky and the green grass on the other side. The possibility and potential of where we could go if only …

But while you might deal with ‘what is’ every day, understanding it is a different thing. And here is the big rub: you can’t get to that imagined future if you don’t.

If you don’t know where ‘here’ is, you can’t even begin to know how long the trip to ‘there’ will take. Navigation 101: plotting a course from point A to point B requires you know the location of point A.

Point A is today. Point A is here and now. Point A is ‘what is’, what you do, who you do it for, why you do it, how you do it and where you do it. These are all things you need to take some time to examine if you want point B  the imagined future  to appear as more than a mirage on the horizon.

Being present and focused on the now is messy, unsexy and frequently hard. It requires the will to look at the success and failure of your current actions and decisions squarely in the face. Those brutal facts can be daunting, but they shouldn’t be defeating. Only by knowing where you stand can you successfully move forward.

When did you last voluntarily schedule a ‘what is’ meeting off-site instead of a future planning one? I’m not talking about in crisis time. I mean a deliberate and conscious decision to spend a day (or more) taking a long look at ‘what is’. Organisation and environment. Good and bad. Gaps and alignments. No blinkers. No whitewashing. Just brutal facts.

And the paradox is, when combined with the imagined future, those brutal facts mean you can get there. To learn more about the most powerful business paradox, click here.

For example, suppose your imagined future is to deliver ‘tell their friends happy’ customer experience. And giving the struggling call centre more people and better technology is high on the list of what’s needed to get you there.

However, lurking behind those struggles isn’t a lack of resources, it’s the billing system. Every month customers get bills they don’t understand and flood the call centre with questions. Some analysis of today’s calls shows 70 per cent of the call volume comes from billing questions.

So an overhaul of call centre operations will be wasted and won’t move you towards the imagined future. The brutal fact: you’ve got to fix the billing system.

That approach can apply to any part of the organisation. Check your ‘what is’ and your aspirations for the future. Now isn’t merely a barrier to get around. Perhaps think instead of a door you need to go through.

I’ve never seen a robust, resilient brand result from an organisation which ignores the brutal facts of their current reality. You’ve got to start in the present.

See you next week.

NOW READ: Six customer service mistakes that drive customers crazy

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Michel Hogan

Michel Hogan is an independent brand thinker and adviser dedicated to helping you make promises you can keep and keep the promises you make — with a strong, resilient organisation and brand as the result. You can find Michel at michelhogan.com.

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