One, Three, and Ten-Year Thinking
When you give leadership within an organization, it is helpful to think in terms of a principle of short term, medium term and long term thinking. To ask, at any given time, three questions:
Question 1: what do I need to be doing right now – in the short term – for the immediate and essential health of the organization? What action item needs to be on my desk that will have a direct impact on how my organization fulfills its mission over the course of the next year?
Question 2: thinking three years out . . . that is, the medium term . . . what do I need to do now so that what needs to be happening three years from now will, actually, happen? What needs to be put in place, what actions need to be taken, what relationships or partnerships need to be established so that three years from now the organization is experiencing the benefits of those decisions that are being made now? Note: as often as note, hiring decisions are not about the immediate: a key strategic hire is a three year investment.
Question 3: what do I need to be doing now that will likely have an impact ten years from now? This is the kind of thinking that assumes that you are not merely invested in your own impact but that of your successor. You are doing things and initiating or implementing things where the benefit or outcome of your actions will, as likely as not, be a return on investment that comes after you have left the organization.
Thus for example, as I write this I have come from a meeting where the person I spoke with will, I trust, include the organization I am a part of in his will as a beneficiary of his estate. And that benefit to my organization will, more than likely, come after I am long gone.
All three of these reflect true institutional intelligence: short term thinking – what needs to be done now; medium term thinking . . . we are not merely in the moment, but doing what needs to be done to keep the organization growing. And long term thinking – evidence that we are truly women and men of institutional intelligence: we care not only for our own ‘reputation’ and accomplishments, but we do what will benefit the organization long term.
Think in terms of one year, three years and ten years. Pretty much everything that you need to do fits one of these. And I am suggesting that what we are doing can be located within one of these points of reference.