Time to See the Future

The scariest change on your horizon is the one that you don't see coming. The problem for most of us is that we are so busy taking care of the seemingly urgent stuff on our calendars that we don't stay on top of the changes that will transform our lives.

For instance, did you know that agriculture companies such as Kinze Manufacturing in Iowa are pioneering driverless tractors and agriculture equipment that will handle tasks that previously required people to operate equipment? Imagine what that will do for the small farmer or even agri-business in general?

Additionally, you may not have heard of Suneris, a Brooklyn-based company that wants to transform the way we stop bleeding. We've relied on direct pressure, stitches, and cauterization for centuries. But the company's new product, Vetigel, not only stops bleeding but helps the wound heal. The product has not been approved for human testing, but it is now being shipped for use in veterinary applications. It is projected to stop bleeding in a femoral artery wound in less than 20 seconds compared to traditional methods that take about five minutes. The life-saving implications boggle the mind.

Driverless tractors or a plant-based, wound-closure product may not affect you today, but they will. Continuing use of automation and robotics in the agriculture business will increase productivity and alleviate labor shortages. New wound-closure products will save lives.

Likewise, potential downsides could arise. For instance, the technology that allows farmers to be more productive could also result in lost jobs for field hands.

There are innovations on the horizon in your industry that will forever change how you work. You will be left behind if you don't know about them, and more importantly, position yourself to thrive when they appear.

So where will you find the time for your own personal research and reading? You are already running as fast and far as you can, right?

Let's take a look at your calendar.

No ... seriously, stop what you are doing and pull up your calendar. I'll wait.

Your calendar is the true test of what is important to you. How much time did you invest over the past month thinking about the future and where your company, industry, or profession is going?

Don't feel bad if the amount of time is small or nonexistent. Mark Ellwood, president of Pace Productivity Inc., reported that only two percent of managers in his studies report any time spent on long-range planning that affects the future.

Thinking about the future doesn't require a great deal of time, but it does take commitment and discipline. How are you going to change your team's perception of change if you can't anticipate it for yourself?

Incremental improvement is the goal. If you are starting at zero, set a target of 15 minutes per week if you are a frontline leader. Keep working until you can get to 30 minutes per week.

Target 5 to 10 percent of your time for actively thinking about the future if you are a mid-level leader. The best senior leaders with whom I have worked devote 30 to 50 percent of their time on future related activities.

How to Capture the Extra Time

Adding the space to see and think about the future will mean giving up or at least re-prioritizing some of the things you are doing today. There are no other options considering the pace of your current workload.

Start by getting rid of everything on your calendar that others should or could be doing. Spending your time with activities and assignments that others could be doing means that you are missing developmental opportunities with your team. Doing things that others should be doing suggests that there could be a problem with role clarity, delegation, training, or accountability.

Sometimes the time excuse is a convenient cover up for holding on to things that you enjoy doing or avoiding a competency gap. If either of these describes you, it is time to truthfully answer this question: Are you willing to be rendered irrelevant and obsolete simply because you are afraid to tackle the hard job of developing yourself for the future?

The changes and competitors that will influence the next 10 years of your life are being created today. Look around and learn. Your success depends on it.

Randy Pennington is an award-winning author, speaker, and leading authority on helping organizations achieve positive results in a world of accelerating change. To bring Randy to your next meeting, visit www.penningtongroup.com, email info@penningtongroup.com, or call Michelle Joyce at 704-965-2339.

Randy Pennington has no financial interest or position in any of the companies mentioned in this article.