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Enhancing Organizational Performance

Sense of Future

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Most of us would love to have a crystal ball, to be able to see what the future holds. Knowing what course of action would yield positive outcomes, whether in your personal life or professional life, would give you a clear advantage assuming others can’t duplicate your skill and see into the future as well. But beyond an advantage, having a sense or vision of the future would give you peace of mind, knowing that everything will work out, or if not what actions you could take to help mitigate your circumstances. A sense of future, if positive, gives hope and perhaps the courage to carry on in the face of adversity.  Taken to an extreme, various religions have used faith-based promises of a positive future, or rewards in the afterlife to exert control over their adherents and to justify conditions or sacrifices they ask their followers to make in the here and now.

When people have confidence in the more immediate future they tend to behave in a positive fashion in the here and now, building a life for themselves and their families. When people lack a sense of a positive future anxiety and depression can occur. Hopelessness or despair with respect to the future opens the door to potentially destructive behaviors taken not only against oneself but against others as well.

In the year 1204, a warrior had narrowly escaped death on the high steppe. Treachery had occurred as he thought he was heading to a wedding celebration for his son, only to find out at the last moment that the “in-laws” had agreed to the marriage only to lure him away from his supporters in order to kill him and destroy his growing power base. He fled for his life and his supporters scattered in order to save their own. Life on the steppe was very hard at that time and loyalty was easily shifted and given to those that offered you the best hope of survival. A strict hierarchy based on lineage was in place and the necessities of life as well as the spoils of battle were distributed unequally depending on status. This particular warrior had set up a radically different social system with his followers, one not based strictly on lineage but on general equality for all. He had been lured into the wedding trap; his “in-laws” were going to give him the gift of a life-time. Would his ragged band of supporters, who did not necessarily have the traditional strong familial ties, rally around from where they had scattered? Would his other followers who had remained encamped far away rush to his aid or would they resume the more traditional social arrangements that they were used to? Would the warrior’s social experiment based on equality fail? This warrior had given traditionally disadvantaged people a positive sense of future, a sense that what they could accomplish was not based on the randomness of their birth, but on what they together as a group could accomplish. He had done away with the caste system and because of this treatment he had developed a loyal base among his followers. From far and wide his supporters rushed to his aid and defeated the far larger number of warriors that had set upon him. The social experiment continued and shortly after the wedding experience this warrior took the name Genghis Khan, whose followers with their innovations and drive conquered more territory in 25 years than the Roman Empire did in 400 years. What drove them, at least partially, a sense of future and confidence.

Fixing the economic situation in which we find ourselves will require changes in structure and policy, but restoring confidence in our future is a critical part upon which we must focus. A psychological sense of future must be restored and enhanced. Beyond the collapse of housing prices, shrinkage in consumer sales and the cutting back of the workforce, the lack of confidence in what the future holds is a driver of fear or worse and is a large part of the economic problem, becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy of doom. We need to break the downward self-destructive cycle in which we are enmeshed. Given that we have imperfect information and can’t actually see into the future we must use frameworks or models which have evidentiary data suggesting that they will improve our sense of future.

The Employee Confidence© model is all about creating a strong sense of future. The data strongly suggest that Employee Confidence has two main components, Organizational Confidence and Personal Confidence. Each of those has an internal and external component. On an organizational level, a positive sense of future or confidence will be found when employees feel that their organization is effectively managed, using sound business processes, that the products they create are in demand, reflective of current customer desires, and that their organization is a tough competitor, hopefully in an industry that is robust and healthy. On a personal level, stronger levels of confidence and a sense of future will be achieved if employees feel that the organization is doing everything it can to protect their employment, that they have a promising future within their current organization, developing skills that their organization will need in the future, and if not in their current organization to the extent that they can be given the skills that will make them attractive to other employers, their confidence and sense of future will be increased.

Of course not every organization, whether that organization is a department, a plant, a company, a city, a state, or a country will be able to achieve high marks in all of these categories, but to the extent that they score stronger in as many of these categories as possible a higher level of Employee Confidence (Organization Member/Citizen Confidence) and a positive sense of future will occur.

In the first State of the Union speech that President Obama gave he spoke of many goals. These goals mesh nicely with the Employee Confidence matrix and provide a guide for any organizational leader attempting to increase the level of Confidence among their organizational members. While I did not categorize every line in the speech the table below gives a sense of how the speech was laid out.

Internal External
Organizational We will change the way business gets done in Washington… We will strive for new ways of working together. Increasing confidence that the organization (USA) is being run well, effectively managed. We will invest in our infrastructure, our educational institutions and research in order for America to once again become predominant in our competitiveness. The country that invented the car should not abandon it. Steps like this increase confidence that we will continue to be the leading economic power in the world. That we are competitively well positioned.
Personal We will take immediate steps to reduce the amount of pain you are currently feeling in the areas of tax relief, foreclosures, and the ability to get loans. Increasing confidence in your current personal situation and that you will get through this economic crisis. Creating new job opportunities, so that if you lose your current job you will have opportunity elsewhere. Asking young people to commit to a year of post high school education, not only keeps them out of the job market for a year, enabling others to find jobs, but by increasing their skill set their attractiveness to a larger number of employers increases as well. This increases confidence that long term you have options. That your personal world won’t end if you lose your job.

The formula that is being laid out by President Obama is one that the evidence shows increases Employee Confidence in any organization and aligns with higher levels of effectiveness and financial performance of those organizations. Not only are the citizens of the USA looking for effective leadership to help get us out of this crisis, but globally people everywhere are realizing that leadership by the USA is the only realistic solution to this global threat. As I gaze into my crystal ball I am optimistic. Let me even go out on a limb and predict that if we carry out the plans as laid out so far the recovery will come sooner than expected.

© 2010 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.

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Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

November 8, 2009 at 10:59 am

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