Insights · October 27th, 2007
Sometimes people ask me “Why plan for the future?” They go on to say something like, “The world is changing so fast we don’t even know what the future will be.”
Well, we do know a lot. We’ve also had a fabulous example of planning that paid off in the California fires. Disaster planning is important, but I’m trying to make the point about all planning here, and just use an example we are all familiar with in this moment. I live in the Seattle area now, but I used to live in California, and when I did, I worked with cities. At least at that time, every city staff member in California carried an “emergency worker” card. They all drilled. They all had first aid training. They all know from day one that in an emergency, they were supposed to be willing to report to work. They almost all participated in planning. We drilled so much people sometimes complained that it interfered with their other work.
Of course, in California, certain things like fires and earthquakes are in the probable future (the set of things that are likely to happen). A firestorm like last week was surely worse than imagined, but I’d venture to guess that almost no other state could have evacuated that many people that well. None of the southern states did nearly as good in the hurricanes. I bet they did plan and drill, but I bet they didn’t do it nearly as much (neither do we in Washington State, although we’re getting better).
So with so many things in our probable future – for example, an aging society – shouldn’t we be paying more attention to planning? After all, the greying society is even more inevitable than wildfires in California. I heard Glen give a keynote speech this week, and he talked about how we aren’t building the kind of housing that healthy but aging baby boomers are going to need. Instead, we’re tearing that kind of housing down and building big houses with multiple floors and large yards (at least around here). In other words, we’re not planning for probable futures. In business, we should be planning now for fewer workers that want to stay on the job for less time. We should be designing plans to retain older workers.