Forecasting Folly or Forming the Future

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“Forecasting is very difficult.  Especially when it involves the future.”

–     Yogi Berra (1925 – 2015), Hall-of-Fame baseball player, coach and manager, and king of the malapropism 

They say it’s gonna snow 3 – 7″ tonight here in the Moines.  Or, maybe it won’t.  The forecast, you see, is very difficult, because it involves the future.

Forecasting our business isn’t like forecasting the weather, though.  It’s more important.

So, why do we use a stick instead of a carrot?  Why do we delegate, delegate, delegate and then punish, punish, punish?  If our forecast is the most important thing to investors, clients, employees and providers, why not take a collaborative approach instead of a “guess and blame” approach?

“But, wait,” we might be thinking.  “Sales people have to know their business!  The unit leader has to be able to forecast the performance.”

Both of those statements are true.  Yet forecasting isn’t just the role of the “meteorologist on duty,” it’s the role of everyone in the business.  The collective experience and wisdom of the team goes in to a forecast that is about forming the future rather than guessing about what might happen.

Getting it right requires at least four strong commitments.

  1. Transparency; being completely open and honest about what’s going on in the business — good, bad and confusing — is imperative if we’re going to forecast with any credibility.  And that sometimes means getting the “big uglies” out on the table without fear of reprisal.
  2. Shared Consequences; if we’re being transparent, we’ll know when a sales pro is sand-bagging or overly optimistic.  Making it everyone’s job invites open, direct communication and sharing the upside and downside of getting it right and / or wrong makes for a healthy team, business unit or company.  We also grow stronger team members when we’re all in it together.
  3. Scenario Planning; if / then discussions help us zero in on likelihoods and provide ample room to know what options we have when “life happens” along the course of our days
  4. Constant Focus & Prioritization; When our “true north” is our forecast, we make informed decisions about activities, responses, approaches and resources.  We decide in order to form the future, based on the forecast we’ve built, together.

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