Do you believe in a vision of the future, or prefer a set of actions you can execute tomorrow?
Some people like to paint a picture of a far future state, whilst others like to plan for what they are going to achieve tomorrow. Most people are naturally attuned to one or the other, but understanding both perspectives is important. This is how I learnt about the importance of considering both.
As a founder and entrepreneur I’ve always been a bit of a visionary, but I’d never really considered the different ways in which people think until Emma Dempsey joined us as CEO at James and James Fulfilment. Emma joined the business from Clipper Logistics, and comes from a background in larger companies.
We’ve always had a healthy level of discussion and aren’t afraid to voice our opinions to each other (as discussion, not argument I might add), and this process has really highlighted the difference in our thought processes.
I will always look to the end game first; to a conceptually pure model of what we want to achieve and from there step backwards to understand what would need to change to be able to get there. Emma on the other hand starts from the here and now, looking at what we have and where we are, and then stepping logically forward towards the future state.
I heard an analogy from someone explaining it was like climbing a mountain.
You can either set your vision of the top, of conquering the mountain, and then work backwards to find a route to get there; or, you can start with where you are, and find a route which takes you higher and higher, until eventually you must reach the top. Neither process is wrong, and often they end up in the same place by similar routes. Both are susceptible to coming to deadends or sheer cliffs, so often planning a route from both ends helps eliminate quite literal ‘pitfalls’ in this example.
These two differing thought processes aren’t just useful for strategic planning though; it can help you communicate your company strategy to your team.
As a visionary I always believed that by painting a picture of the end result you gave people a common and motivational ideal to aim for, but as not everyone thinks this way it clearly explains why I’ve found some people get it, while others don’t. For some people, the journey and the first few steps from where we are today is more important, more motivating, than some lofty image from a distant picture.
In summary, both views are equally important, but they aren’t equally weighted for each individual. To set a strategy you need to consider both perspectives, and to communicate a strategy you need to explain it in a way that’s meaningful to both types of thinkers.