Does your company struggle to reconcile its short-term needs with its long-term imperatives? Is there a silent and sometimes not-so-silent war between those who push a short-term driven agenda versus those who take a longer-term view?
In many companies, the tug-of-war between short-term and long-term causes confusion and distraction. The company finds itself in an endless loop of course corrections, stuck in a circular motion as opposed to moving forward.
Short-term vs. long-term
Short-term challenges are often, but not always, driven by some crisis. Strong customer dissatisfaction, hot new sales opportunities, competitive threats, key employee turnovers and cash-flow crunches are just a few of the examples that can cause a company to focus on the endless array of “urgent” situations and neglect long-term needs.
To satisfy an irate customer, a company may go against its core business model and make decisions that might haunt it later. However, many within the company would justify it by arguing the company must do what is necessary to live to fight another day.
Long-term imperatives are often driven by the need to take the company to the next level. It is about improving and transforming the company so it is stronger and vibrant and can grow at a faster, more reliable rate.
Those imperatives typically involve a significant commitment of time and investment. They involve deliberate considerations and difficult decisions at multiple stages and dimensions. These initiatives require a lot of effort to sell internally, and the benefits are often obscured due to the long turnaround-time required to produce benefits and the high number of variables and risk factors.
Executives who tend to favor short-term solutions are often doers and operational in mind-set. They get satisfaction from getting it done. They feel compelled to do something quickly as opposed to holding themselves back to develop a more rigorous and long-lasting solution.
On the other hand, executives who favor long-term solutions are often big-picture thinkers, who like to consider all angles, develop comprehensive and holistic solutions. Developing the right solution to them is more important than doing something fast.
Executives with these different mind-sets are similar to the two men standing on either side of a precipice engaging in a tug-of-war. Neither can afford to let go.
Two sides of the same coin
Your company cannot afford to sacrifice either the short- or long-term. The million dollar question then is how do you reconcile seemingly competing sets of imperatives?
You must ensure there is no competition between the short- and long-terms. They must be two sides of the same coin.
The issue of misaligned imperatives arises because companies fail to clearly develop and articulate their long-term initiatives. As a result, the organization pursues short-term imperatives that are contrary to long-term imperatives. The short-term projects become difficult to discontinue because of the expectations created for different stakeholders from customers to employees.
The long-term imperatives must provide the context, an umbrella if you will, for the shorter-term thrusts. Shorter-term initiatives and projects must form an intricate pattern within the tapestry of the longer-term quilt. Your company must develop the discipline to ensure that even in the case of a crisis, the response does not violate the firm’s core business DNA.
Do not fall in the precipice. Ensure your short-term and long-term imperatives are cohesive and congruent. ●
Quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and WorldNews, Ravi Kathuria is a recognized thought leader. Featured on the BusinessMakers show, CBS Radio, TEDx and PBS Nightly Business Report, he is the author of the highly acclaimed book, “How Cohesive is Your Company?: A Leadership Parable.” Kathuria is the president of Cohegic Corp., a management consulting, executive and sales coaching firm, and president of the Houston Strategy Forum. Reach him at (281) 403-0250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.