It’s actually easier to do the right thing

The right thing is to plan, organize and execute with long-term results in mind.  But nearly every manager is so driven by short-term metrics that they fail to account for longer-term effects of their decisions and actions.  As a result, they accomplish less for themselves and for their organizations, making them less effective and less competitive.

Here are three ways to incorporate longer-term thinking:

1. People working for you know when they’re being put at a disadvantage due to short-term thinking.  For example, if you won’t spend the capital needed to buy the right tools, they’ll keep working, but they’ll resent both the inefficiency of the work and the lack of regard it shows for them as workers.

People will find ways to correct problems and to self-organize to be more efficient if you will only give the room to operate.  This includes trusting them to find the best way to organize and giving them enough budget to execute the plan.    Your main contribution after that is to give them enough of the bigger picture so they know how their work fits in with your objectives.

2. If you’re committed to personal growth, then you need to track your effectiveness over a longer term.  Your monthly or quarterly objectives are the table stakes in this game.  Cranking out regular results will guard your job, but it won’t make you ready for a larger role unless you include a vision of what’s possible in the longer term

If you want to be seen as an emerging leader, then you have to champion longer-term growth and improvement.  To do that, you’ll need to solicit feedback and actually listen to it.  And you’ll need ways to identify short-term objectives that are actually causing damage to longer-term results.

For example, a client company refused for years to convert to better programming language tools because changing tools would make the first project to use them take longer.  As a result, they went for years at a disadvantage compared to their competitors.   Eventually, they changed – when they merged with a competitor that was already using the tools.

3. In some areas, such as product development, experimentation is essential.  You may think that Engineering is a deductive, forward-only process; but in fact a lot of development involves eliminating the unworkable by trying it out.

Once you realize that experimentation is part of the process, you stop regarding abandoned directions as a waste of time and resources.  In fact, experiments lead to better decisions and stronger platforms on which good products are based. Since the result of having stronger platforms is not visible until the next product, you could harm your product line significantly by insisting on maximum-speed implementation.

The alternative to backtracking after an experiment is to fall off a cliff – with failure of the process.  It’s better to insist on high-quality, incremental progress.  And how do you know you are seeing incremental progress?  You have to have a longer-term vision and plan to measure it against.

Once you have the vision and the plan, it’s actually easier to do the right thing.


How are you keeping longer-term results in mind?  Post your comments below.

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About John Levy

John Levy, Ph.D. is an expert in computers, software and storage who is available for consulting in patent litigation.

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