Management Is Prediction

Prepare for bends in the road

But know you can’t predict everything

Todd Ordal

“Management is prediction.”
—W. Edwards Deming

I used to live in the Twin Cities and drive back to western Minnesota where I grew up to visit family. My wife and I joked that once you got onto I-94, you could fall asleep for four hours and still be on track, but that was hyperbole. Even in farm country the road bends.

Refusing to predict the future in a leadership role means that, by default, you’re committed to no bends in the road.

If you could find a business that never changed and had a profitable business model, you’d feel lucky… for only a while  — because you’d attract competition like bees to honey.

I pity the leaders who grow up in a “caretaker” (i.e., no dramatic changes) environment, because when there’s a bend in the road, they not only can’t find the steering wheel but usually slam on the brakes!

There is naturally fear in making predictions about the future because you are virtually guaranteed being wrong about at least part of your prediction.  Most leaders in businesses are more comfortable waiting for current reality to change and then trying to react to it. Depending upon your industry, this may be “good enough” during your tenure. Hope that you have no fierce competition, execute brilliantly and you may have a good career, but don’t kid yourself, you’re like the novice gambler who wins big early and thinks he’s a genius.

Refusing to peer into the fog of the future is like closing your eyes and assuming that the road will not bend. Which is riskier, assuming no change or making predictions?

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