As part of a recent leadership development initiative, I had the pleasure of assisting with facilitation of what appeared to become a “cultural shift” for one of New York’s premier healthcare service providers. About 100 senior leaders representing a full range of geriatric, rehabilitative and home health care service divisions participated in the Future Game ®. Together they planned the future of a hypothetical region in the Australian Outback. How could this possibly shift a culture? Let’s take a closer look…
In teams of five, these senior executives rolled up their sleeves, kicked off their shoes, and assumed the role of Aussie regional leaders – a mayor, a public works official, leading employers, and the like. Together they tackled a series of critical decisions to find a future for rural areas suffering a wide range of economic, social, and environmental challenges. In their teams, they watched their decisions show a visual impact on population centers, schools, economic, and environmental conditions in their hypothetical region.
Ultimately, each team got to see the results of their collaborative decisions – the 20-year future they had created for their region.
It was incredible to watch the reactions – ranging from smiles, to disappointment, to frustration and denial. The competitive nature of these teams really came through as many realized that they may have fallen short of their desired, ideal future – despite their best efforts.
Then, as we debriefed, the key lessons were unearthed … that despite the fact that almost all leaders asserted that they had sought an ideal future much different than the current state of their region, their decisions tended to preserve the status quo.
To be honest, don’t we all do that ourselves, nearly every day? Aren’t our current organizational cultures and silos almost DESIGNED for self-preservation? Are the lessons learned from the Future Game really so surprising?
As with most groups who play the Future Game both here in the U.S. and abroad, regardless of sector, our friends playing the game in New York had an “ah-ha” moment. I don’t think they were shocked – they are smart people. I DO think they saw in a new -and yes, in a safe way (via their hypothetical region in the Australian Outback) - how decisions made today shape the plausible futures of any organization.
In New York, the Future Game was used as a prelude to a major healthcare provider’s regular strategic planning activities. Down to a person, all of the executives swore it would change the way they thought about their organizational goals:
I believe all organizations – in any sector and of any size – need to reflect on their futures. Recent times and all the talk of a “new normal” have many of us stuck and defensive, managing for the short term and just plain scared stiff.
Is it time for YOU to think about the decisions you are making within your team? Is it time for YOU to think strategically about the future and re-think your decision-making?
We at Maher believe it is. Innovation is what is called for today, but it isn’t likely to take root in fearful, uncertain environments waiting for the future to unfold. Today, we need to shape our future – to reach out and grab the future we want and that we have a realistic chance to achieve.
Think about it. Find your future. Start today.