I’ve been on a journey the past 2 years – toward greater physical health. Those of you who know me might think there is a long road ahead! I’ve made significant progress and still have some distance to travel. I’ve always enjoyed running (not fast, but I get there!) and so have made that one of the cornerstones of my regimen. Now that the temperatures have reached -20¡C in my neck of the woods, I’ve started using the treadmill which we have set up in the 2nd story of our home. We’re situated on the top of a hill (well, a hill by Saskatchewan standards at least – if you don’t know the prairies, it’s pretty flat!). Because of that, we can see past our suburban neighborhood, out across the South Saskatchewan river and into the fields and hills that are 8 miles away.
As I was running the other day, I noticed that where I focused my vision changed my entire perspective. When I focused on the window in front of me, the distance appeared to be bouncing violently. However, when I shifted my focus to the distance, the hills 8 miles away became stable (yet the window now appeared to be moving). As I reflected on this, it occurred to me that the boards I have sat on had similar experiences. It is easy for a board to become preoccupied with what is happening right in front of it – the daily work, the current situation – because it is so immediate, AND possibly because focusing on the future is harder. However, when preoccupied with the present, the future destination will always appear to be in flux.
Boards that focus on the future will find that clarity about direction and purpose become the norm for an organization. It does not mean that the present becomes unimportant. Efficient use of Executive Limitations and rigorous monitoring provide the board the assurance that the present is under control. The board can then spend the majority of its time determining what Ends the organization should produce. Without constant focus on this future, the organization is likely to become unduly influenced by the shifting winds of the world at large and fail to attain what is most important. Where you focus makes all the difference.
A few questions for reflection:
- What percentage of time does your board spend on the future vs. the present (or past)?
- What are some activities you might stop doing in order to spend more time considering the future?
- What supports might you need to help you do these things?
Where you focus makes all the difference.