planning

Truer words have never been spoken.

This is something that I learned very young, when I worked in radio. Turns out there is no room for the “surprise” of dead air (Program Directors REALLY hate that).

I also learned it as a young account manager in an ad agency. Clients so do not like to be surprised by a typo in their 100,000 printed brochures.

I also learned it when a fellow co-worker and presenter had an epileptic seizure during an annual franchisee meeting, and SURPRISE I got nominated to present her material – site unseen, right now.

I learned this painfully, and never forgot. It was the biggest lesson on how to think ahead and prepare for the unexpected.

Clients/customers/audiences/bosses just do not like to be surprised. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Clients/customers/audiences/bosses just do not like to be surprised.

So tell me, how is it that we can almost daily see these surprises still occurring all around us, and some on a spectacularly grand scale?

Like Netflix.

In case you have not followed it, Netflix is a company that had a solid 10ish year business based on mailing DVDs to your home. As their name implies, they then moved into digital streaming distribution online. But then, some not so well thought through decisions occurred that are widely considered a multilayered communications bungle. In a very short span of time they had: a re-branding (new name), service change (down-scaled), price change (increased), and an add-salt-to-the-wound attempt at an apology by the CEO. Four surprises too many for customers. This netted them the info that 55% of members planned to discontinue their subscription, and discombobulated investors handed them a stock price down 57%.  I am thinking the resulting “surprises” for Netflix were equally unappealing.

Sigh.

If we have customers, we all need to think it through, all the way through, pop our own bubble and really consider all the different ways people could react to something we plan to do, and manage it. You may not be able to change your decision, but how you work through the change makes all the difference in the world.

Will you (purposefully or mistakenly) create any surprises today? Will they be good surprises?

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I often ponder what is going to come of us as a society. I am a little bit more anxious about it these days when I see all kinds of evidence of people, companies and governments so pre-occupied with the here and now, that they are not taking the time to really look ahead and then purposefully move to create a thoughtful productive, valuable future.

I see it with clients that no longer do annual budgets, rather quarterly budgeting, and sometimes monthly (JIT budgeting or lack of foresight and confidence?). I see it in month-to-month real estate sale comparisons (alarm the bell, we sold 25 less houses this month!). How about the daily ride of the TSX (Daily? Really?!). Everywhere I turn I see an overwhelming abundance of shortsighted thinking.

But the real kicker for me came at a recent visit to NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre. For the first time in US space exploration history, there is NO plan for space travel. The Atlantis landing was the conclusion of the space shuttle program, and there is no other program/aircraft to follow it. Wow.

I can appreciate that it is an expensive time for the US right now – wars to pay for, economic recovery to pay for and health care reform to fund. Times are tough. And space exploration might seem like an easy thing to cut, after all, most people could not really cite why the space program is important to them personally, so the flack for the lack of funding will be much quieter to deal with.

But I say, look over your shoulder…here comes China. They are investing, planning, strategizing and spending, when North America is caught in the here and now.

It seems that most sectors and companies in North America are living in the land of popular votes of citizens and shareholders, requiring short-term thinking, decisions and actions.

I look at it all and really wonder what is going to become of us? With so few leaders having the nerve to buck the JIT habit, how will companies/the county ever be ahead of the pack, innovating and creating real value?

I’d like to discuss if we are in a thinking ahead crisis, but I fear that people are so caught up in the here and now that it will need to be put off until another day.

Heads up, watch out for that cliff!

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I have a long, comedy of a story attached to this real quote. Suffice it to say, I was not on the bus to raise my hand, consequently was missed and was subsequently left behind.

I have to say, that I am feeling déjà vous when I think of the revisions to the census. In case you have not heard, the Federal government has decided to do away with the long form of the census and I am left wondering how in the heck they will know who is on the bus and who is not.

The Canadian Census is an institution highly regarded around the world as a rich resource for evidence-based decision-making in the public and private sector. How could such an institution be so compromised?

From a business perspective, PROVOKE uses this data regularly and we will personally miss it a great deal. But what I am truly concerned about is all of us as a nation. What will future decisions at levels of national and community importance be based upon? What exactly is going to go unnoticed because it could not raise its own hand to be noticed? I fear that the gaps in our society will only widen.

I refuse to believe that a need for less intrusive government outweighs the need for an informed government, an informed citizenry. Do you?

Once you have had time to reflect, if you see the potential for some serious unplanned consequences of uninformed leaders across this country, I ask you to take action. Push back, raise your hand and make noise, specifically to your MP. Put the pressure on to try to stop it.

Otherwise we can prepare as a nation to see all kinds of people left behind. That is not my Canada. How about you?

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