Put long-term goals ahead of short-term gains.

Don’t sell your future for a bowl of soup.

Effective management often involves a tension between short-term gain and long-term goals. Successfully navigating the winds of change can be easier if you have a firm grasp on where you want your organization to be in the future. The future is built on decisions made and actions taken every day. What you decide to do today affects what happens tomorrow.

KNOW YOUR PRIORITIES

You can’t know what’s coming, but you can manage the future by having a clear vision of where you want to be and sticking to those priorities.

Southwest Airlines is a good example of a company with a clear vision of its priorities. Its low-fare promise provides a North Star for making decisions. The carrier could surely attract more passengers if meals and movies were added, but that would jeopardize the priority of being the low-price leader. Maytag is another example. The No. 1 priority for the appliance maker is dependability. Building reliable machines is so inculcated into the company’s culture that the “lonely repairman” is legendary.

There are also many unfortunate examples of what happens when a company or individual loses sight of the long-range plan, and opts for short-term results. Esau is probably the most instructive. Here was a guy who literally had it all. He was on the cusp of receiving an incredible inheritance. But he sold it away because he was hungry. Short-term gain, long-range disaster.

DECIDE WHAT WON’T CHANGE

When carpenters start to remodel a building, they first determine which walls can’t be removed. Once the load-bearing walls are identified, everything else can go and the building will remain intact. When you’re managing an organizational change process, the first question you must ask is, “What should we not change?”

Develop a clear set of non-negotiables. Use this list as the framework upon which you’ll build the future.

There’s a side benefit to establishing this list of what will remain the same. When staff hear about change, they typically assume the worst. Assuring your team that certain critical things will not change can ease the discomfort that often accompanies implementation of any new idea or plan.

BEWARE OF SACRED COWS

Sacred cows are not priorities. Just because you’ve been doing it for a long time does not mean you have to keep doing it in the future.

Remember the story of Peter. He’d been clinging to traditions when a transforming vision changed his perspective (Acts 10:11- 15). The vision of forbidden foods and the admonition to eat them did not change Peter’s priorities. Sharing the Gospel was his priority. Getting rid of the sacred cows and traditions helped him create an even more effective future.

FOCUS ON THE WHAT

When you’re standing at the edge of a change process, focus your energy first on what you want or need to accomplish, and let the how simmer for a while in the background. Think of the what as the desired destination, to which there are many possible paths. Have a crystal clear picture of what you want to do before thinking about how you’re going to do it.

Keeping your focus on that what will keep you from selling your future for a bowl of soup.

—Jim Seybert