Month June 2017

Month June 2017

Question Five: What is Your Preferred Future?

John Bauer June 26, 2017 blog, News No comments
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If you think you have a pretty good handle on what the future environment will look like, or at least you are knowledgeable about the trends that will affect your organization going forward, and you have a solid and honest assessment of how well you are operating in your current environment, then you are ready to define your future. Before suggesting how you can frame that future in words, however, I want to pause and reflect a bit on the expression I use a lot in my practice, and frankly, what I believe is the only appropriate outcome of strategic planning: a description of your “preferred future.”

The truth is, there are many futures one can choose from. There is a large set of possible futures, limited only by your vision and capacity to achieve them. If you analyze the world you operate in and are attuned to changes that are happening and are likely to happen in the future, you might come up with a few plausible futures that are within the realm of possibility given your organization’s recognized strengths and constraints. There is also a probable future if you continue to operate with minimal changes in mission or program. Understanding what that probable future looks like can serve as a baseline from which to measure risk or change. Choosing from among the large set of possible futures, however, leaders who are determined to position their organizations for maximum impact and sustainability in the future must describe the preferred future they can commit to striving for. The illustration below describes how these possible futures are related. I’d like to share a few observations on each of these so you can gain a better sense of what I am encouraging you to do. There is also an inherent flaw in the model itself which I will expose and discuss at the conclusion of the article.

Possible Future

So, what’s possible? Just about anything, I suppose. For example, if you receive an unexpected ten million dollar legacy gift, or Democrats come into power again and triple federal spending on Medicare and Medicaid, you can dream pretty big dreams. It’s possible that advances in technology will eliminate the need for direct care staff, that all your surrounding competition will turn their assets over to you, and that the state in which you operate will ask you to take over all state-run agencies of your type. The key consideration is what is in your control to change. You can’t predict when people will die and leave you millions and the political future is less predictable than the weather. And far-fetched fantasies, while tantalizing, need to fly on their own and not crash into the corn field of reality.

Trying to describe various possible futures consists of a 30,000 foot view of what the organization could look like, realizing that as one gets closer to the ground with all its detail and variation, many if not most of those possible futures are not realistic.

Plausible Future

So Uncle Fred isn’t going to leave your organization the farm, the Republicans will control the federal government for the next eight years, you’ll still need a significant entry-level workforce, and the competition will still wrestle with you for market share. Given the internal and external conditions in which you operate, what reasonable predictions can be made about the future and how will your organization fit into it? From the days when I taught logic, I emphasized that a good informal argument should pass the tests of coherence and correspondence. Achieving plausibility is similar. A plausible future is one which must be internally coherent and consistent with current and projected realities and must correspond with how the majority of others in your industry view the future. In other words, a plausible vision of the future has to make sense, given everything else which is known.

Probable Future

Probability is a mathematical concept which determines the likelihood of an occurrence. If you flip a coin into the air, the odds of it turning up heads is one out of two possibilities. To be sure, it is possible that you could throw five heads in a row, but we know that the more instances of flipping a coin there are, the closer to that 50% mark we come. In the world of organizational planning, we can also surmise the future based on daily, weekly, monthly and annual instances from the past, usually described quantitatively in terms of key performance indicators, benchmarks, financial performance, quality measures and whatever other ways exist to track your organization’s behavior over time. Visually, one can draw such performance in the form of a graph which indicates behavior and change over time. Extrapolating those graphs into the future, including rate of change, arc and trajectory, one can ascertain a probable state of existence at a future point in time. This, of course, assumes that existing internal and external conditions remain pretty much the same – a very dangerous assumption which I will discuss below.

So, thinking about your organization as it is today, factoring in what you know about the environment and how it is changing, you can project a vision of the future derived from where all those performance lines lead, assuming you continue to do what you have always done with the same people in the same manner in the same location using the same methods. Well, who wants to do that? If your strategic plan is to do the same old same old, then I’d suggest that you don’t even bother with the effort. Just draw the lines five years into the future and be done with it.

But of course, that isn’t why your board pays you the big bucks, is it? While it may be a useful exercise to contemplate what your organization would look like if you did nothing, or to calculate what it would take to “bend the curve” of your performance measures, merely creating a future based on current trend lines seems like an abrogation of responsibility to me.

Wild Cards

Of course, the future is not perfectly predictable. If it was, I would not be writing this; I’d be enjoying the beaches of Maui, living on my shrewd investments in the stock market. In my own professional life, I was the architect of a brilliantly conceived strategic plan for my organization that rigorously analyzed everything I’ve talked about here. This beautifully constructed vision for the future of my agency was enthusiastically adopted by my board in February of 2008. The following September it went into the ash heap of history as a useless stack of paper. The wild card we were dealt was called a financial recession and it dramatically reshaped our future as we worked to survive. While unpredictable, possible wild card events should be considered and risk mitigation strategies developed. Decision-making tools to handle unanticipated events should be established. Unfortunately, we had planned on the basis of static assumptions and were not prepared for the big recession wild card. The chart indicates their possibility, not their probability. Acknowledge them, but work to avoid them.

Preferred Future

And so we come to the decision point. Given everything you know about what is possible, plausible and probable, what do you prefer to have your future look like? This is a complex question, but one which can be answered in its constituent parts. If you return to the seven planning variables I described in my two previous articles, it is possible to describe a preferred position in each of those areas. Taken together, they comprise the organization’s vision for the future.

Your preferred future should be written in the form of high level general statements of position. I prefer this terminology to “goals” or “objectives” or “initiatives,” which have their own technical meanings and imply associated measurable targets and timelines. These types of statement will follow later as the leadership team develops annual tactical and action plans. For purposes of the strategic plan, however, boards should only focus on the high level strategic positions and not be allowed to get into the weeds around tactical issues.

Allow me to give a few examples of what such high-level position statements might look like for each respective planning element. I don’t hold them up as perfectly constructed models; only as examples to give you the general flavor.

Technology – In five years, the organization will be regionally recognized as the frontline innovator in the use of adaptive and educational technology to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Population/Demand – The organization will provide a comprehensive continuum of care to seniors beginning with early retirement and continuing to end of life with a dominant desire to meet their needs at every phase of life in their own homes.

Competitive Market – The organization will be the exemplar of excellence in its region and will strive to expand its mission of quality through affiliation, collaboration or merger with identified competitors in the region.

Regulatory Environment– The organization will aggressively advocate at every level of government to ensure the highest level of funding, client civil rights, and legal protection for the people it supports.

Financial Position – The organization will ensure its long-term sustainability by maximizing its operating revenues through advocacy efforts and by building an endowment through aggressive fund raising from individual, corporate and foundation donors which will be of sufficient size to offset all corporate overhead expense from its earnings.

Work Force – The organization will be recognized in its region as the employer of choice, characterized by high employee satisfaction, lower than average turnover, and opportunities for all employees to grow and advance personally and professionally.

Location – The organization will expand its geographic service area from broadly regional to selectively national in scope, targeting those states and population centers which demonstrate sufficient unmet need for services, a favorable regulatory and funding environment, and adequate denominational representation to provide spiritual support.

If thoughtfully constructed and clearly reflective of solid research in each area, I think you can see how powerful such statements are for boards and leadership teams as they exercise their strategic responsibilities. Any one of these statements could yield hours of generative discussion in a board meeting. Such position statements, taken together, should paint a clear picture of what the chosen future will look like.

These statements should also be descriptive enough to then be broken down into tactical goals and objectives, complete with measurable indicators of progress. As stated before, however, tactical statements should NOT be under the purview of boards or board committees. They can be reviewed as annual initiatives or goals, but a board’s responsibility is to approve the long-range strategic direction of the organization and not to tell management how to execute the plan.

To return to the earlier concern about unanticipated “wild card” events that have the potential to dramatically alter the future, I will write in more detail in subsequent articles about how to manage such events within the framework of the long-range strategic plan. However, it is important to state that once a  strategic plan is adopted, it should NEVER be allowed to languish on the CEOs bookshelf. It MUST become a living document, subject to review and revision whenever changes in the internal and external environments warrant. While I’ll expand on this more at a future date, let me suggest some simple ways to immediately create a culture around the strategic plan.

Probably the biggest step toward ongoing review and accountability is to make the strategic plan THE agenda for board meetings. Devote most of board meeting time to discussing progress toward achieving those position statements. Report on key performance indicators which show progress toward the end goals. Use the position statements for generative discussions, bringing in key staff to provide background information and to report on initiatives aimed an advancing the organization toward the preferred position. You might think about publishing management briefs between board meetings so the board meeting doesn’t digress into listening to reports. You can actually dump most board decisions or approvals into a consent agenda that would require no discussion unless someone moved to take an item off the consent agenda. In other words, embed the strategic plan into governance practice.

The second biggest step toward ongoing review and accountability is to make the review and updating of the strategic plan an annual event, scheduled for a vote by the board at the same time every year. In other words, I recommend having a rolling one-year strategic plan with a three to five year horizon. Each year, the plan is updated and another year is added to the horizon. If this is done thoroughly each year, it is conceivable that a comprehensive six to twelve month comprehensive strategic planning process would never be needed again.

Finally, to deal with those unanticipated wild card events, tools need to be developed which allow the organization’s board and management to make crisis decisions in a manner which stays true to the strategic direction of the organization. I’ll talk more about how that can be accomplished in three weeks.

As always, your thoughts and reactions are welcome.

 

 

Question Four: What Does Your Current Environment Look Like?

John Bauer June 19, 2017 blog, News No comments
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If you have taken the time to stare into the future, and you and your staff have a pretty good idea of the major trends that will shape the environment into which you wish to lead your organization, you are now ready to turn your attention to your current environment and to analyze your organization as it operates today. I suggest that the way to do this is by considering the same planning elements you used to predict the future, only now you will evaluate your current status in each of those areas.

As I have asserted previously, this does not mean doing a SWOT analysis. I strongly believe that examining your current strengths and opportunities are of strategic importance, while documenting weaknesses and threats promotes engagement by your board in management activities. Weaknesses and threats are better handled through a risk assessment and mitigation process – not through strategic planning. Besides, as Tom McLaughlin asks, “What would you rather build your future on – your strengths or your weaknesses?” Yeah, I thought so.

This question is different than the one you answered earlier about how you are doing? The answer to that question was really intended to measure the sustainability of your mission, the quality with which you execute your mission, and the impact you are having on the people you support. It is also a different question from one which examines the organization’s capacity to move forward. That question, though related, looks at the infrastructure, systems, policies, practices, leaders, and the human and technological capital that support the operations and make growth and improvement possible.

This question is intended to identify those areas of organizational strength as related to essential planning elements and to call out gaps where the current status is not in alignment with the demands of the perceived future. If this is a bit confusing, allow me to describe a number of planning elements and demonstrate how future needs can be aligned with current realities. Let’s take the seven planning elements I described in my previous article. You can select your own if you wish. These are mine and are not held up as being exclusive. However, I have found that they do broadly cover the most important dimensions of strategic planning and thinking. As you think about each of the areas and how your organization is currently positioned, ponder the answers you provide to the questions I have posed.

Technology/IT

How satisfied are you with the current IT and applied technology infrastructure in your organization? Do you have a current IT plan and are you executing that plan? How is technology used to support each of your missional programs? Are some programs greater beneficiaries of technology assets? Are there significant differences among staff in your various service areas with respect to use? Do you have any “power users?” What are the strengths you have in IT that can position you to move forward?

Population/Demand

What are the demographic attributes of the people you currently serve? What is your current market niche in that population? Can you leverage your current position in the population to increase or expand the demand for your services? Are you adaptable in your current service lines to address the needs of new or different markets in the current environment? Is your organization the “gold standard” for the type of service you provide in your area? How do you compare?

Competitive Market

With whom do you currently compete? Are they better, stronger, bigger than you? Do they take potential revenue away from you? With whom do you collaborate or operate joint programs? Are there smaller, weaker, vulnerable organizations in your area that might be targets for collaboration or acquisition? What is your current market share and is expansion in that niche possible?

Regulatory Environment

How does government regulation affect your bottom line? Quality of services? Public perception? Are government agencies helpful to your work or do they present burdensome obstacles to efficient and effective operation? Do you have easy access to relevant government leaders and decision-makers? Do you participate in industry-wide advocacy efforts to advance awareness and support for your services and the people you serve? Do you have sufficient leverage with legislators to advance your cause?

Revenues and Expenses

Where does the money come from to fund your operations? How strong is your advocacy position with government agencies to sustain financial support for your programs? What does your donor base look like and can its profile support sustainable growth? What percentage of operating expense goes to administrative functions? If you had to cut 15% from your budget today, could you do so without impacting the quality of your services? Do you have endowed funds or a “rainy-day” fund to cover unanticipated exigencies? Are programs funded by grants and if so, what is your success rate in winning such grants?

Work Force

How are your current employees positioned in order to maximize loyalty, professional growth, retention, promotion, and commitment to the mission? What is your current turnover rate for all categories of employee? What are the skills required of current employees and how are those skills acquired, developed, improved? How are employees rewarded for excellent performance? How is employee performance evaluated? How are employees recruited, oriented, on-boarded, trained, and retained?

Location/Geography

Where do you currently provide services and what constraints currently exist which limit your geographic reach? If you operate at multiple sites, how do you ensure coordination among units and their staffs? What systems currently exist which promote smooth operation? Are there current opportunities to “franchise” your services into other geographic areas? Are there organizations with which you can collaborate to intentionally expand your service area?

These are only a few of the many questions that can be asked to eventually paint a fairly accurate picture of your organization’s current internal and external environment. Once answers are provided in those seven categories, they can be lined up with the work you did to predict what the environment would look like in five years. Comparing the current status with the projected environment will allow you to identify positions of strength upon which to build and also gaps which should be filled. Such gaps are not weaknesses per se, but are areas of opportunity which can be built up to better position the organization to move into its preferred future.

Below is a simple diagram which describes the process I have laid out. If all of this makes some sense to you and if the approach I’m describing in these articles resonates with your own ideas of how to engage in effective and useful strategic planning, I hope you will take what is useful and apply it to your own situation. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that a good way to avoid having to pay an expensive consultant a lot of money is to follow my approach. My goal in these ten articles is to provide all the tools you will need. Take freely. Use what you can. Of course, if you desire to have a “knowledge expert” like me facilitate the process, I would be all too happy to talk to you about it.

Next week I’ll tell you how I take the analysis of future trends, the current status environment scan, and project the organization’s preferred future in terms that can drive action and accountability while also ensuring that on-going, dynamic strategic decision-making is supported.

In the meantime, I always welcome feedback.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question Three: What Will Your Environment Look Like in The Future?

John Bauer June 8, 2017 blog, News No comments
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Now that you have affirmed, clarified or amended your mission statement, and have conducted an honest appraisal of the impact and sustainability of your current business model, it is time to begin looking into your future to see what the world will probably look like. This step is a necessary prerequisite to actually trying to project your position into that future simply because the environment in which you currently operate is bound to change and the future environment in which you hope to be effectively positioned may exhibit qualities for which you are inadequately equipped.

In my experience working with nonprofit, mission-driven organizations, a common mistake I frequently observe is neglecting to do the hard research into future trends that is necessary to understand the world, how it is changing, and how it will likely affect the organization’s ability to fulfill its mission. I have seen organizations immediately move from an internal assessment (How are we doing?) to a projection of the mission into a future based on a set of assumptions, usually around things like the rate of inflation, turnover, cost of administration, market demand, and a host of other environmental factors. Too often these assumptions are expressed in some kind of incremental fashion, such as “employee turnover will remain at 35% per year.” So, organizations cast their vision by articulating strategies based on the false assumption that the rate of change of environmental factors will remain constant. I remember suggesting in a strategic plan that I was facilitating about ten years ago that an average annual return on investment of 5% could be assumed through the duration of the plan. Then August of 2008 came along, the economy went into recession, the endowment lost 35% of its value, and my assumption went up in smoke.

Admittedly, predicting the future is very difficult and if I could tell you with certainty what the world will look like in five years, I wouldn’t be writing about it. But there are macro trends that can be recognized with some good research.  These trends must be thoughtfully considered before putting a stake in the ground to claim your preferred future.

Let me suggest a number of critical areas that should be investigated. Searching out the best available research in these areas isn’t necessarily easy, but knowledge specialists within the organization as well individuals in the same service industry or academia should be conversant in the primary literature for trend data around relevant variables. Professional associations also are repositories of data collected on behalf of member organizations (e.g., AARP, Leading Age, AAIDD, etc.).

Technology

No area changes as rapidly as IT. New systems and applications are rolled out on a daily basis. New uses of technology to support people and deliver services are in abundance. Technology facilitated learning is changing the face of training and certification. Business data is becoming business intelligence as new technologies enable predictive forecasting and support proactive positioning based on statistical inference. Because of the rate of change, however, the challenge is to anticipate what technology in service to your mission will look like. This is so important because of the growing percentage of operating budgets comprised of IT hardware, software and support. Advances in technology also have the potential to affect other areas of operation such as employment, direct care, finance, competition, funding, and many others.

Population Changes and Demand for Services

Nonprofit organizations are by definition in the people business. Organizations which serve those in need must understand the populations they serve and how the target population might change. Moreover, changes in the attributes of those populations must be understood. For example, if you are in the senior services sector, it is one thing to understand population distribution in various age cohorts and an entirely different thing to understand how people think as they age with respect to the kinds of services they need or desire. You might ask, “How do the current models of independent living, assisted living, memory care, etc. align with growing preferences about aging in place?” In the world of intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), we know that prenatal screening for birth defects and genetic anomalies is contributing to higher rates of abortion. A pertinent question might be, “What is the rate of decline in the population of individuals with Down’s Synodrome or other disabilities who would benefit from our services?”

Studies of birth rates among ethnic and racial groups, reports on immigration and areas of settlement, descriptions of age cohorts in the future, longevity and life expectancy studies – all of these may be consulted to develop a best guess about the people your organization will serve in the future. As people live longer, their needs for services increase.

Competitive Market

Your organization is probably not the unique snowflake you think it is. I’m guessing there are other agencies in your area that offer the same or similar services. The reason your agency came into existence and the reason it is still operating is, to be sure, noble. But the fact is that nobody has exclusive dibs on people and there is going to be competition for the people you serve from some source. As long as there is a market that can be further penetrated, businesses are going to continue to grow. Your agency may be the equivalent of the local mom and pop corner grocery store. You may have a loyal customer base.  But when Walmart decides to open a megastore on the outskirts of your town, you are going to be challenged to compete. Understanding the market and your competition is critical for survival and positioning. The mom and pop grocery store may survive, but only by differentiating itself in ways that are of value to its customers.

Knowing who your competitors are and the relative shares of the market you and they serve is incredibly important for another reason. It just may be that your competitors are also opportunities for collaboration. I especially see this happening in health care, but it is also increasingly common in social services, foundations, and philanthropy. On a mega-scale, think about Bill and Melinda Gates’ Giving Pledge in which the world’s billionaires have been challenged to pledge their wealth to do good in the world. On a smaller scale, think about how several private school foundations can create pooled investment funds instead of competing for the same donors. Collaborations don’t have to mean mergers or acquisitions. There are myriad ways of collaborating with competitors for mutual advantage. Knowing the competitive landscape in your future environment will help shape your thinking beyond the narrow confines of your current mission and open up a future of possibilities.

Government Policy and Regulation

Elections have consequences and the most recent presidential election is a stark reminder of this fact. There is no debate about the exponential expansion of regulation that occurred under the previous administration. The new administration is in the process of rolling back many of those regulations in areas such as environmental protection, health care, tax reform, immigration, entitlement reform, financial institutions, small business regulation, and others. Whether this is good or bad is for others to judge, and what this will mean for nonprofit charitable service organizations is anybody’s guess. However, assuming the current leadership will be in office for the next four years, some predictions are possible. Reform of health care and the tax code seems inevitable. This actually may be good for smaller organizations that have been hit hard by rate increases in health care. On the other hand, possible changes in the administration and funding of Medicaid could be catastrophic to nonprofits that rely heavily on reimbursements for services. Closely monitoring government policies is of critical importance for organizations whose very existence depends upon the largesse of government.

Revenues and Expenses

Most nonprofit organizations depend up a mix of revenues to support their operations. In the world of senior services, public sources may include Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Supplemental Social Security, and state and local assistance. Personal sources may include pensions, retirement accounts and personal savings. To provide services takes a lot of money, so the question is: “Where will the money come from in the future to pay for these services?” The brutal reality is that, “No money, no mission.”

Most nonprofits also rely heavily on donor support. Revenues can come from any number of sources including special fund-raising events, annual direct mail campaigns, major gift solicitation, planned giving, and legacy and estate gifts. Many organizations also seek corporate and foundation support. Larger organizations may derive operating revenue from the return on investment of endowment funds. A few even have their own foundations. Most nonprofits, however, are too small and thinly staffed to capitalize on the many ways to raise non-operating revenue.

And then there is the whole area of social enterprise. When the people you support can be organized to produce a service or product that contributes to their own support, mutual benefit can be derived. Nonprofit service organizations have long used vehicles like resale or thrift stores as a way to engage volunteers and people supported to generate revenue. Others have incorporated green strategies to reduce utility bills and waste. Others have applied micro-financing strategies to support client business start-ups. There are many examples that can be found which may have potential for your organization.

It is tough to predict where the money is going to come from, especially when there is a dramatic change in the federal government. The future of Medicare and Medicaid is anybody’s guess as of this writing. So trying to predict the likely payer mix for services may be an exercise in futility until some measure of clarity is achieved in Washington. Remaining oblivious or fatalistic is not an option.

The expense side of the organization must also be examined, especially with respect to anticipated trends in how costs will likely change over time. Will technology be able to offset some of the administrative overhead or make service delivery more efficient and cost effective? Will changes in government regulation potentially raise or lower expenses? Will health care reform lower the cost of employee health insurance? Is it more or less likely that labor unions will attempt to organize your employees?

Last, just as we painfully observed in 2008, a downturn in the overall economy can have a devastating effect on nonprofit revenues. Some suggest that funding of nonprofit social services is a leading indicator of market decline and a lagging indicator of market recovery. Reimbursements for human services are among the first strategies state’s employ to balance budgets and restoring or raising rates usually comes later. I guess that makes some sense. What it also does is make predictions about the future of the economy very challenging, especially when big name economists can’t agree. All I can say is that leaders of nonprofit organizations better have trusted counsel when making assumptions about the future of the economy. Make assumptions about the future, but plan to be wrong.

Workforce Attributes

One of the biggest challenges facing most nonprofit organizations is hiring and retaining qualified and committed employees. Nonprofit wages are generally below those in the public sector. Entry level positions such as direct support, food service, housekeeping, transportation, and other unskilled jobs are plagued by high turnover rates due to low wages and/or the temporary nature of the job as employees finish school or pursue higher paying jobs. Even professional positions in nursing, management, executive leadership, or skilled administrative functions experience turnover due to wages and benefits.

Who will your employees be in five years? Where will they come from? What are their age, educational attainment, and aspiration attributes? How loyal are they to your organization? Do they work two or three jobs to make a living? What personal and family challenges do they face that can impact their reliability or longevity? These and other questions should lead the organization to develop an employee profile for the future.

Location/Location/Location

Where you provide services is the final critical planning element that warrants consideration for the future. If your organization is the only one of its type in a small town in northern South Dakota with the closest town of any size more than 50 miles away, this may not seem like much of an issue. At least it is quite different than if you are located in a suburb of the Chicago metropolitan statistical area containing ten million people. Regardless of your location, however, there are some important questions to ask yourself as you contemplate where you will provide services in the future?

If your services are facility-based, are there opportunities to grow by building or purchasing remote campuses? Can you “franchise” your service delivery model to others by creating a collaborative service agreement whereby you provide the service if they provide the capital? If your services are community-based and are not as dependent on buildings, are there population areas that need your kind of service? For example, if you serve chemically dependent children and their families through in-home services, your geographic footprint is probably determined more by how well you can manage your staff and the time it takes to drive to homes. This is also true of agencies that provide community-based residential services to people with IDD.

Finally, geography may be affected by collaborative efforts such as merger or acquisition. My own work in developmental disabilities began when I helped facilitate the affiliation and eventual merger of two large service providers, one in the Midwest and the other on the west coast. The resulting organization doubled the number of people supported and turned a regional provider into a national organization. On a smaller scale, geographic expansion may come about through competitive bidding for services, such as going after contracts to provide early childhood education. It may also come about through strategic acquisition, such as purchasing smaller for-profit agencies that help expand the niche of services. Whatever the circumstance, thinking deeply about location, facilities, geographic needs, reach potential, and acquisition opportunities will help eventually answer the question: “Where will we serve?”

You have been staring out your office window, gazing at the horizon, wondering about what tomorrow will bring, perhaps noodling about what challenges and opportunities await? You can’t help but worry about how your organization will respond and how well it will fit into that unknown future. I hope the foregoing has given you some food for thought as you contemplate your future. While we can’t know with certainty what will happen, we can be observers and learners who are attuned to changes in the world around us. We can make reasonable guesses as to what the future will look like. And, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, careful study of the trends in the areas I have described is an essential step in strategically thinking and acting to achieve your preferred future.

Next week – What does your environment look like today?