Working in the industry that I do (financial services), there tends to be an obsession with short-term performance. Look at the stock market – a company could be performing great for years, transform an industry, and yet they miss by a penny on an earning estimate and the stock tanks. The company is still healthy, still being a revolutionary leader in the industry, and yet because they came up a slight bit short of meeting a number that was determined by an outside analyst which really doesn’t mean anything, and yet the stock price takes a hit.
How did our world become so focused on the short-term? It has really become a “what have you done for me lately” culture that has gripped our world. Yes, to be successful a company needs to have some short-term success. But it isn’t the only thing that matters. Companies and individuals not only have to look at the short-term, but more importantly make sure that those short-term goals are aligned with long-term objectives. If what the company has set out to do in the short-term will not help achieve its long-term vision, it doesn’t matter.
This isn’t a view that is only for organizations – individuals need to take this view also in terms of their performance and development. Let’s, for example, look at the performance review. I’ve railed on about my annoyance with how performance reviews are handled. Managers need to not only look at what the individual has done in the short-term in terms of decision making, but also take a long-term view on whether the individual has improved their performance, knowledge, and skills from one year to the next. Short-term issues need to be handled immediately, so that it can help their development over the long-term in becoming a better employee.
Let’s get away from this short-term mindset. As an organization, what are you doing to improve overall performance and effectiveness over the next 5 years? Do you have long-term objectives, and if you do, are your short-term goals being used as stepping stones to reach those 5 year goals? Long-term performance and sustainability cannot be achieved by looking through a short-term windshield – you won’t see that cliff three miles down the road, and you won’t see a long-term trend of improvement.