It is about Time

25 07 2010

When planning within a business context the time scales we use are often short, as short as 5 to 10 years.  While this may be longer than political time scales of only 3 to 5 years, it is very short in terms of the lifespan of successful and enduring businesses.  How often do you see businesses planning with time scales of multiple decades or centuries when they are the considering impact of their products and services?

In terms of sustainability, imagine the view businesses would take into their planning, if they were to consider time scales which included that of:

  • Their own ancestors, their present family and their future generations?
  • The founding organisations in their sector, their current suppliers and customers, along with those future organisations which will be created through the progress that they make today?
At a very fundamental level we all know that the current way of business needs to change however mainly through the fear of the unknown, that change is not happening fast enough.  Let us consider taking that step now rather than waiting as the fear will only grow the larger if we wait.
It’s 3:23 in the morning and I’m awake
because my great, great grandchildren won’t let me sleep
My great great grandchildren ask me in dreams
What did you do while the planet was plundered?
What did you do when the earth was unraveling?
Surely, you did something when the seasons started failing?
As the mammals, reptiles, birds were all dying?

The first few lines of a poem called Hieroglyphic Stairway by Drew Dillinger http://drewdellinger.org/




Changing Perspective

18 07 2010

Taking time to look at a topic or issue from a different angle can often be a rewarding experience.  You may be challenged to begin with, though as you discuss the topic from say the perspective of your supplier or a particular type of customer, new or clearer perspectives will emerge.  You can think of this as role playing.  Have some fun with it and consider doing it as a group exercise with your colleagues.  What is really powerful is when you actually do the exercise with your suppliers and customers.

Now that you have considered the current situation or time period why not change the time to what it was like for that supplier or customer 2 years ago, 5 years ago or even 10 years ago.  What is the progress you have made since then on improving your service, meeting their expectations and what have they changed to meet your requirements?  Have there been changes in the information you need from them in terms of say working conditions?  What about changes to the materials and processes they use?

Reflecting back on the progress you both have made will provide a renewed sense of progress.  Now take your perspective into the future 2, 5 and 10 years.  What changes do you seeing that will become the normal ways of businesses operating?  How has the way you design your products and services taken into account the use of resources, the sustainability cycles and social impacts?  Are you preparing for those?  There are some great processes available to help facilitate this forecasting (some of these are mentioned in previous posts including how backcasting may be a better methodolgy than forecasting).

Enjoy the new awareness you gain from changing your perspective!





Knowing and Acting

11 07 2010

What if you knew the code to enable you to predict the future? Some think this would be marvellous, while others think it would make life a little boring.

You will have seen movies that show how people predict what is going to happen in the future. Many discussions continue on what Nostradamus was able to predict. Irrespective of what you believe in this area we are able to predict many events with great certainly over short periods.

Take for example heavy rain happening in the mountains. The people downstream know that they have certain period of time to react before the water levels at their part of the river will rise. They have been able to measure the rainfall in the hills and compare that with the rise in the water level at different places along the river and the time at which the water was highest. They know that if the rainfall in the hills reaches a certain amount then the downstream river banks will be breached. So they take action and sandbag the riverbanks or leave the low level areas.

You may be asking, why are you telling me such basic knowledge? Well this scenario can also be used to highlight what may be the very slow reaction that people have to climate change. Scientists know that the way we are treating the environment today will have flow on effects. The have measured many different components of our natural environment and have been able to correlate changes within their measurements with such certainty that they believe that they can predict what the future impacts will be.

While most of the effects of climate change will take a lot longer than the time it takes rain from the mountains to raise the level of rivers downstream, this slower rate of change is certainly not a reason not to act with as much haste. While the water levels in the river may rise and fall quickly, the impact of factors that are creating climate change will be with us for a considerably longer time.

We certainly are living in a time of knowing how our actions as humans collectively are affecting our future sustainability, so why do we not act with the required urgency?