According to the American Management Association, companies are increasingly turning to futurists to help them uncover the strategies that will guide their success.
Unlike other schools of thought, futurism provides a host of frameworks that enable leaders to think beyond want they want their business to achieve and set goals around the areas that they are most likely to succeed in.
And, it’s not just broad business strategies that it can be applied to. Futurism can dramatically improve your performance management systems by helping you bridge the gap between your team’s current performance and your company’s long-term goals.
Here’s how to take a futurist approach to performance management.
Systematically Envision Your Team’s Future
Though futurists often think twenty+ years in advance, doing so isn’t practical nor necessarily useful if you’re the leader of a team or department. Instead, opting to shift from focusing on quarterly/annual goals to five to ten-year visions can have a powerful impact on the longevity of your team’s success.
Here are two methods to help envision your team’s future:
1) Trend Analysis
Trend analysis involves being an avid observer of the macro factors that have the potential to affect your team. This includes:
- Economic factors
- Consumer trends
- Emerging technology
- Political movements
- Other factors that are specific to your industry
To be successful, you must constantly read content from reputable sources and, if you’re prone to forgetting what you read, take copious notes so you can clearly see when something starts to change.
As you do this, it’s critical to distinguish between temporary occurrences (the impacts fade within a few weeks) and lasting shifts in the areas that you observe. Even if the changes are small at first, noticing them will give you foresight that sets you ahead of your competitors.
Using that foresight, you can start to envision how emerging trends will impact your team’s performance in the coming years and plan accordingly.
2) Scenario Planning
Scenario planning is a much more active approach and can be done either independently or based on the information you gather from trend analysis.
To do it, brainstorm the two to three events that are most likely to impact your team’s performance in the next five to ten years. Think about the specifics of each one and identify actions you can take to mitigate the effects both immediately and if the potential obstacles become issues.
Here are some examples:
- Scenario 1: There have been some poor economic indicators recently and your company is likely to go on a hiring freeze. Yet, your team will still be expected to drive growth during that time. It won’t be long until being short-staffed affects your team’s morale as it becomes increasingly difficult to meet your company’s goals. Thus, you need to make plans to better support your team in order to successfully manage their performance during this difficult time.
- Scenario 2: A new, heavily funded competitor makes announcements that they will start releasing innovative products in the coming year and is assumed to roll out improvements in the years following. To avoid losing market share, you’ll need to shift your performance management structure from meeting pre-defined goals to finding and successfully implementing new ideas to become more competitive. This may involve providing special training, changing KPIs and engaging in other activities that require planning and foresight.
Each of these scenarios requires radically different courses of action to be successful which is why this is such a powerful tool. Rather than taking a general approach to performance management and hoping for the best, you’re able to tailor your actions to accommodate the challenges your team will likely need to overcome.
- Schedule time on your calendar every day to read informative content and engage in trend analysis.
- Brainstorm two to three scenarios that are likely to impact your team’s performance in the next five to ten years. Then, come up with immediate and long-term actions you can take to mitigate the obstacles’ effects.
Create KPIs that Set Your Team Up for Long-Term Success
Once you’ve got a vision of where you expect your team to be in the next five to ten years, evaluate whether your current KPIs put your team on the path toward long-term success and, if not, you need to change them.
The most effective way to assess this is to ask yourself: “what does my team need to do today in order to achieve the outcomes you want to see in five to ten years?”
Many leaders struggle with this because they’re used to focusing on quarterly and/or annual goals. However, the more ideas you brainstorm about how to manage your team’s performance so that it positively impacts the long-term future, the more successful your company will be.
Keep in mind that, to accommodate your goals, you may need to shift your performance management approach from solely tracking ongoing KPIs to adding some that are based on milestone completion. After all, adapting to the future may require building projects and systems that have never been done before and therefore can’t be quantitatively measured yet.
Though risky and ambiguous, unprecedented goals should be embraced as long as they evolve into something that can be measured and put your team on the path toward long-term success.
- Identify the KPIs that will have the greatest impact in achieving your long-term vision.
- If needed, adopt some milestone - rather than metric - based performance measures.
Set Progressive Goals to Achieve Long-Term Progress
A core futurist belief is that you can’t predict the future but you can make significant progress in creating it.
Once you’ve set your KPIs, spend time mapping out the gap between your team’s current performance and where you want it to be in five years. When you do this, be sure to account for the obstacles (economic factors, emerging technology, potential resource shortages, etc) that you suspect are likely to occur during that time.
Chances are, your current KPIs aren’t ambitious enough to create your desired future. So, you must create a progressive performance management structure that pushes your team to bridge the gap over time.
This being said, you need to collaborate with your team to map out achievable goals. Otherwise, your employees are going to burn out because they’re forced to work an excessive amount of hours to reach their growth metrics - assuming they’re even able to at all.
Think about it this way: when you set progressive goals, you’re expecting to your employees to set records every single month. Often, just maintaining performance challenging and it can be difficult to predict what’s going to drive increases.
So, work with your employees to determine what is the lowest possible monthly increase that still makes significant progress toward your team’s goals.
Additionally, you can also mitigate the stress of progressive goals is to average your employee’s results for the quarter and assess their performance then. This gives them the opportunity to have a low month and recover before facing formal judgment.
- Identify the gap between your team’s current state and your desired future.
- Create a progressive performance management system to bridge it.
- Collaborate with your team to ensure the goals you set are realistic.
Keep in mind that today’s events are constantly shifting future outcomes. To be successful, you must constantly observe emerging trends and periodically adapt your performance management plans accordingly.
About the Author: Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.