Start at Point A
"When you grow up, what would you like to be?" That's a question parents, relatives, and even complete strangers direct at children in India. As a result, the journey through life begins with the desire to be somebody tomorrow: An engineer, a doctor, a pilot... kids start working their way to a Point B that lies in the future.
I have nothing against people stoking children's ambitions and no issue with kids dreaming about the future. But the problem is that the fixation with a Point B often continues over time. When children are in kindergarten, their parents are obsessed about getting them into school; when in school, the focus is about getting admitted to university; on graduation, the priority is to land a good job.
Once you become a manager, you become obsessed by the business targets and personal goals you must attain in order to be deemed a success. Life has somehow become all about getting to a hypothetical future.
Why not begin with Point A — where you are today — instead? When you look at a map, don't you first look for the text that says: "You Are Here"? Only then can you chart a path to where you want to go.
In business, executives strive to take organizations from Point A to Point B. We often focus on what Point B should look like. But we must be clear about where our companies are at present before trying to create something that will be relevant tomorrow. Executives must ask: What are the organization's strengths? What are its weaknesses? What do we need to do to overcome the challenges we face?
It isn't always easy to identify Point A. Three dimensions of the environment are constantly changing: technology, industries, and people. Managers must spot the changes that matter; evaluate how they interact with one another; and internalize their relevance. That means understanding what technologies to phase out; identifying the shortcomings in business models; and discovering the skills that have to be bridged. Executives must take ownership for the relevance (or irrelevance) of their current strategies if they want to be successful in the future. As the American writer James Baldwin once said: "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."
Besides, tomorrow's winners may not be companies that offer solutions that may suit the future. They are more likely to be organizations that understand the current challenges that companies face — Point A — and develop solutions that will get organizations to where they want to go. So where would you start: Point B — or Point A?
Originally posted on Vineet Nayar’s Blog site on Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2010/01/when-you-grow-up-what