Are you a long or short-term thinker?

A common refrain in many organizations is “Always time to do it over, never time to do it right.” How often have you seen this in your company? When I was consulting, it was one of the most popular problems we dealt with. I would repeatedly hear employees use these words to describe how things were done in their workplace. It was no wonder that American quality fell behind that of the Japanese during the eighties. We became a country where we did little or no long term thinking or planning. Our planning horizon was sixteen weeks. This is the length of time between quarterly reports. Our goal was firmly fixed on the corporate stock price. Could we have a more fickle or less worthwhile target? We are so busy doing things short term that we find it easier to fix the problems this creates rather than thinking things through and avoiding the problems in the first place. We ignore the old admonition that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

When I look back to the date I started consulting (September 1986), I ask myself, “Have we changed?” As a nation and as a people, are we looking any more long-term? Have we moved away from simplistic measures of success? Are we looking at more forward thinking or are we still primarily reacting to changes? What about personally? Do you think long-term or are you primarily always reacting to short-term crisis? Do you plan for the future or are you focused simply on what problems and troubles today will bring? What role does long-term thinking play in your life? What would your answers to these questions be?

I would love to hear your answers to these questions. If you care to, send your replies to me at or post your comments.

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