Long range planning in a short term economy

I’m headed to the TED conference today. This is one of those events that challenge you to think about the bigger picture and beyond the immediate horizons of financial quarters or even years. This year, more than ever, the conference will have its work cut out to achieve that. With so many businesses caught up in the immediate economic challenges, I suspect it will be tougher to get the CEOs attending to put aside the pressures of their day job and explore some of the mind bending content TED presenters usually put forward. Of course this may actually be just what some of these people need. It is all too easy for business leaders to get caught up in the immediate challenges they face and to forget about the long term destination. Some will argue that when a ship is sinking the captain should worry more about keeping it afloat than which port they were headed for. I’d agree but I’d also argue that most people’s ships are not sinking; they are simply battling tough conditions. The captains who can remind their crew of the benefits of reaching the destination and who are able to step back and perhaps use the difficult conditions to actually help them reach the destination will be the real winners. I say all of this, not to encourage a round of navel-gazing by business leaders at a time when they do need a firm hand on the tiller but to make sure we also remember that in times of difficulty the importance of having the right destination shouldn’t be ignored. Missions and visions are not the monopoly of good economies after all.