5: Anticipation

One of the key differences between the majority of drivers on the roads today and those who might have taken a further test such as IAM or RoSPA is anticipation.  That this one single skill is generally underdeveloped is clear wherever you look on the roads: for example when you see people driving close behind others on the motorway and getting wound up when they have to brake suddenly; driving at 30mph through narrow village streets with blind entrances; or driving at the same speed whether it’s raining, dark or icy.  CRAZY!

Anticipation is also vital in running a business and can be every bit as life threatening and even more economically ruinous than in the situations above.  The combination of planning, communication and our holistic viewpoint at the top should enable us to understand what factors might influence our progress. 

Faced with a corner in a car, we might approach this by: applying the brakes to slow us to a speed that we can take the corner at; engage the correct gear to be able to both hold the corner speed and accelerate appropriately at exit; turn the steering to first enter and then exit the corner; monitor our progress through various senses (sight, sound, feeling) and fine tune our inputs as required.

We have essentially been looking forwards and seen a complication (the corner), set up the car before we reached it and then negotiated the complication, all whilst continuing to look forward to see which way the road goes ahead.  Slow in, fast out.

Complications are almost as normal to business life as corners are to drivers.  Yet many businesses lurch from one crisis to the next because they don’t anticipate what is coming next.  For example, the newspapers are currently full of comment about the credit crunch, the fall in house prices and the likelihood of a general downturn.  If you are in business and have not already worked out whether (and if so, how) any of these factors may impact on you, then it is likely that you will hit the metaphorical corner ahead too fast.  At best, by the time you have managed the situation, you will exit the corner slowly.  At worst… a probable car wreck looms.

If you have worked out the risks and not yet taken the action you feel is appropriate, then maybe you would agree that you are reckless?

Anticipation needs to be applied right through the business from sales (what is happening in the industries of our clients) through finance (forward cash-flow), marketing (when are the quiet periods that we need to find new customers to fill), health and safety (where are there possible risks to life or limb developing), employment (risks of losing and replacing key staff), IT (planning for disaster recovery) and so on.

In the same way that our key role as driver is to negotiate obstacles whilst maintaining forward motion and anticipating what comes next, it is important not to get sucked into each of the incipient business challenges.  Problems fall into the urgent/important matrix and should be dealt with accordingly.  If you’re so wrapped up in the urgent corner, that you are no longer looking forward, there’s a good chance you’re going to miss the important corner that follows.

And as with driving, anticipation allows you to run your business in a more measured, more efficient and ultimately less stressful way.

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