By Prof. Vincent Bagire
This is a very common talk among many people. I want to say at the onset that this is not right from a strategic point of view. I discourage it among managerial leadership. The rationale in this talk is to keep our mind away from the focus in the comfort zone of the current! It blinds the mind to keep the future from bothering us today. While this is agreeable and normal, it should not always take possession of our being. We must look at both loose ends of our time; ordinary life is a pattern of what is, was and will be.
In this article, I will address Christian leaders individually and in executive teams who ‘want’ to ‘cross the bridge until they get there.’ So, when leaders are entangled in decision dilemmas, the easy way is to handle the current issues and let the future resolve for itself when it comes. When we take this direction, we are simply bordering management by crisis. The future is uncertain. But, we are certain of getting to it. Competent managers have already dealt with the current. It is now the future that is of interest.
Strategy is a very common word that we use; it deals with the future unknown but, with certainty that we want to get there. It therefore takes rational thinking to picture that future amidst likely uncertainties. That is why, failing to see the ‘bridge’ and ‘crossing’ it now is to leave the future with its uncertainties till we get there. This is despondency. So, good leaders and managers must always create an image of certainties and project how to cross over now. When eventually we get there, we shall be positive and prepared to only handle the reality as it will have unfolded. I have already alluded to three time scope: the future that we hope to encounter, the current that we are maneuvering and the connecting time period that we must manipulate. The future now is paradoxical. This duality, full of imaginations needs to be gotten right. This situation often renders issues of contradictory dilemmas to managers.
In real organizational life, we cannot certainly tell what is in future, but, we should never close our eyes to that future, even if it is only a week away. The obvious reason is that contingences unfold all the time. So what guides strategists is the ability to discern the future across uncertainties. These are the ‘bridges’ that people claim will cross when they get there, the wrong mindset as I have coded it. The ‘bridges’ should be created today and crossed right away. When we get there, therefore, it will only be to overcome rather than to look over how to cross them. ‘I will cross the bridge…’ is like a failure talk. Often used when someone wants to avoid issues ahead of current life exposition. I have asked, first, suppose you get there and there is no bridge? Second, suppose you find that the tools you need to cross were left behind? The power in our hands, individually and more in managerial capacity, is not so much of the current times; but rather the future. This power clearly distinguishes operational managers from strategy managers; the former get things done very well today and assume that the future will take care of itself. Strategists must therefore see into the future.
There are various tools that are usable to assess the environment so as to get some certainty of the future. We do not leave the future to be handled when we get closer, for we may never know that we are there. With clarity of those ‘bridges’, we shall only need to align to the reality. For managers of firms in turbulent environments, this story is pertinent. They must project customer numbers, tastes, sales volumes, competitor actions, future products and services, costs, emerging technologies and even likely government policies.
Strategy scholars and practitioners concur that strategy implementation is the harder stages, it poses its own (numerous) dynamics: It is the time to meet the reality away from dreams. When one is not prepared, then what is called reality check is encountered. We can thus imagine the weight of the challenge. Some managers get stuck at the very sight of the bridges that they promised to cross when they get there. The common result of this unpreparedness is irrational decisions, inappropriation of resources, and management by crisis, conflict and more uncertainty. This is more real in our individual lives, and our skin is too thin to absorb the shock. It’s all about having a map that is physically guiding us in a given direction.
With such mental maps, we see a flat terrain even where there obviously are hillocks. When you wait to cross the bridges when you get there, you are likely to find that the tools needed are not in the travel bag. That can be a reality shock again. Cross it now!
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