Good Mistakes: All Mistakes Are Not Created Equal!

Do you (or your organization) have permission to make mistakes?

Your answer to this question not only reveals your risk tolerance, but likely provides insights into your personality and innovative abilities as well. In a recent workshop with some great staff of the SoCal Ronald McDonald Houses, a key theme was the reality of constant and ongoing organizational change. Working in an organization in flux is challenging. But the increasing pace of societal change means that constant flux is the new normal.

Constant change means that mistakes are more likely to occur. So how can we teach our staff to be happy and healthy amidst change? Furthermore, how can we help them make mistakes that matter? Eduardo Briceno has published a very helpful model which we can use to help employees understand good and bad mistakes. 

This model is effectively simple so I’ll bet you are already drawing your own lessons from it. However, let me illustrate three points to help equip us with reminders about change and mistakes:

  1. No matter the mistake, the learning opportunity is always high! One of my contracts recently dropped the ball and forgot to complete a task by a stated deadline. This mistake cascaded to about 20 other people who were unable to do their work as a result of this error. However, the apology email I received the next day was impressive. The individual owned the problem (on behalf of one of her staff), outlined the root causes and went on to explain three things she was doing to both fix the problem and keep it happening again! I often tell people that I don’t mind mistakes. However, I do mind how people respond to mistakes. When we own, fix and learn from mistakes, we become better as people and as organizations.
  2. Sloppy mistakes can be minimized. Sloppy mistakes happen because our intentionality is low. Stated more simply, sloppy mistakes happen because we don’t care (or forget to care). Repeated sloppy mistakes are often the sign of a disengaged or under-skilled employee. We all get sloppy, but repeated sloppy is a big red flag!
  3. We need to teach and coach our team members differently based on the type of mistake they make. Stretch mistakes should be praised, high stakes mistakes should be thoroughly debriefed (often in ways where others can learn these expensive lessons as well) and ‘aha’ moment mistakes need forums in which to be shared. As my title states, all mistakes are not equal. Wise leaders will identify the type of mistake made and then ensure that their response to mistakes matches the need. And in the midst of a busy-work day, this takes intentionality.

Good teams have leaders who give them permission to make mistakes. Excellent teams have leaders who help their team dig deeper and understand the type of mistake they made, and how they can leverage it into something that will benefit both them and the organization.

After all, pobody’s nerfect!

Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email:

Source: Mindset Works

Five Jobs Robots Will Take Last

Last week I shared a post called “The Five Jobs Robots Will Take First”. It reminded us that technology is eating into a job market that used to be done by us! In today’s post, we will review the opposite – jobs that robots cannot do! See if you can spot the common theme through these careers. Credit for the great content below goes to Shelly Palmer!


1. Pre-school and Elementary School Teacher

Unless we are trying to turn our children into little computers, we cannot let computers train our children. (“Singularity” people, I know what you’re going to say. The Kurzweilian future is now estimated to begin in the year 2045. There will have to be a minimum age law associated with human/machine integration.) I can imagine a robot kneeling beside a sobbing five-year-old (who just figured out that his mom packed PB&J instead of a bologna sandwich) and offering comfort and a shoulder to cry on, but the robot is unlikely to provide an emotionally satisfying outcome. We teach our children to be human. If we want them to grow up to be human, they will have to be trained by their own kind.

2. Professional Athlete

Would football be interesting if it were played by robots? Maybe. Would it be fair to put human athletes on the field of play against robots? Probably not. Using today’s regulation clubs and balls, robot golfers would consistently shoot in the high 40s to low 50s. What’s the point? As long as humans strive for athletic excellence, humans will need to play sports. What about surgically enhanced, genetically modified athletes? That’s for another article.

3. Politician

Politics and humanity are inextricably linked. The complex mix of subtlety and nuance required to become a successful politician is not in the current purview of AI. It’s a training set that would require a level of general intelligence that is far beyond the reach of near-term technology. Machines do not need politics; they “live” in a meritocracy. Humans live in anything but. As long as fairness and equality are important topics, humans will be the only ones on the political scene. Some of you will remind me that all politicians have the same goal: to get reelected. And therefore, politicians should be very easy to program. Nope. Sadly, politicians will be among the very last professionals to lose their jobs to AI. (They are also in a unique position to legislate their own job security.)

4. Judge

Judges, adjudicators, arbitrators, and people who judge baking contests or Olympic sports or any type of contests that require both objective and subjective assessments have practically robot-proof jobs. Subjective judgment requires vast general knowledge. It also requires a thorough understanding of the ramifications of your decisions and, most importantly, a precise ability to play “I know, that you know, that I know” with the parties who are directly involved, as well as the public at large. If you can make a living judging baking contests, you’ve got lifetime job security (as long as you don’t eat too many pies).

5. Mental Health Professional

Psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals will simply be the last jobs robots can take. Sure, we could do a combination natural language understanding, automatic speech recognition system tied to a competent AI system that would make a fine suicide prevention chatbot. But there’s much more to understanding and treating mental health issues. Again, humans are better equipped to understand other humans. This is not to say that medical professionals won’t leverage AI systems to do a better job, but the ability to create a robot that could take the job of a trusted psychiatrist will be outside of our technical reach until we have functioning WestWorld-style robots. And even then, it will be a reach.

By this point you have likely noticed the common link in all of these careers – humanity. I encourage you to extend this same principle into your own career aspirations. Is your work humanity-based? If so, your job could likely be added to this list. However, if you find yourself in a career that is rooted in processes, you may want to begin training for a people-based profession.


Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email:

Source – Shelly Palmer

Photo Credit:

The Future of Sports – 19 Trends

Today’s blog provides several fascinating insights about the future of sports developed by the Shaping Tomorrow organization. You will find that these upcoming changes are rooted in several key drivers which include shifting demographics (Gen Y), technology invading markets which are not traditionally linked to tech (like sports) as well significant shifts in the economic priority of consumers. So, without further adieu, here they are.

  1. Broadcasts of virtual reality (VR) sports could become the norm.
  2. An estimated 27% of U.S public high schools will not be offering any sports programs by 2020.
  3. E-skin displays could become a direct competition or a replacement for sport watches.
  4. eSports revenues could surpass $1 billion as early as 2018. One Activision exec says it’s a potential Olympic sport.
  5. In the U.S there are more eSports fans than baseball fans and it’s predicted it will exceed any other sport in US.
  6. Millennials are projected to spend about half what all adults in the US and Canada spend ($50) on live sporting events.
  7. Adding sensors to sports equipment will continue to revolutionize the way athletes train and compete.
  8. Body sensor shipments are expected to increase from 2.7 million in 2015 to 68.0 million units annually by 2021.
  9. Parents will increasingly want sports equipment that helps protect their children from injury.
  10. Whoop is the first scientifically-grounded system designed for continuous wear that provides athletes with data to reduce injuries and predict peak performance.
  11. The activewear industry is expected to add $83 billion in sales globally by 2020.
  12. Demand will grow for products and services that help prevent or rehabilitate injuries in growing bodies.
  13. Sports-science insiders have predicted the imminent arrival of gene doping in sports.
  14. Annual smart clothing shipments will grow from 968,000 units in 2015 to 24.8 million units in 2021.
  15. By 2020, global shipments of VR headsets are expected to hit 64.8 million per year.
  16. A new app developed by Scottish start-up Sansible Wearables will let players and coaches track the intensity of a collision and the effect it has on the body.
  17. Similarly, a mouthguard with motion sensors can analyse concussion risks after a player contact.
  18. Rugby could find itself alongside American football as a sport fast losing support among a new generation of parents and young families.
  19. Intelligent robots will publish sports commentaries.

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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email:

Source: Shaping Tomorrow
Photo Credit: Bob Smith


Mobots & More: 21 Business Terms You Need to Know

Do you know what Peak Stuff, The Internet of Energy and eSports all have in common?

They are all new terms which Goldman Sachs believes that business leaders need to understand. These words signal changes in our industries which will impact how we do business. Take a look at the 21 terms and see how many you know (Bhattacharyya) .


1. eSports

Organized, competitive computer gaming has become a mainstream spectator event (online or in an arena). Now it’s becoming a big business, generating considerable revenue for advertisers.

2. Mobots

Mobots are robots capable of changing positions autonomously. They’re a combination of an automated guided vehicle and a collaborative robot with sensing abilities that can work alongside humans. Demand for mobots is expected to increase in manufacturing, military, services, logistics fields and in hospitals.

3. Peak Stuff

We’ve accumulated so much stuff that some of us no longer want to buy any more of certain types of goods, including clothes and other household items — a drastic change from consumer-driven growth of the past 50 years. Goldman quoted Ikea’s head of sustainability saying, “in the West, we have probably hit peak stuff. We talk about peak oil. I’d say we’ve hit peak red meat, peak sugar, peak home furnishings.” In other words, we are spending more on experiences than physical belongings.

4. Bots

A bot, otherwise known as a chatbot, is a type of software designed to automate tasks over the internet that are ordinarily handled by humans. They often operate in conjunction with instant-messaging platforms, and got a huge boost this year when Facebook opened up Facebook Messenger to third-party bot development.

5. Athleisure

A portmanteau of the words “athletic” and “leisure,” athleisure is used to describe the fashion trend that’s seen clothing used for exercising increasingly worn in other contexts, including work and social settings. Athleisure has been called one of the fastest-growing clothing categories of recent years.

6. Yield-to-Worst

According to Investopedia, yield to worst means the lowest potential yield that can be received on a bond without the issuer actually defaulting.

7. Machine Vision
Machine vision allows a computer to use imaging-based automatic inspection to complement manual inspection for quality control, read bar codes to ensure parts are in the right area and to help orient robots. It’s becoming a part of the manufacturing process, from food and beverages to automobiles and pharmaceuticals.


OLED stands for organic light emitting diode. Developed by Kodak in 1987, it’s seen as an alternative to the traditional LCD (liquid crystal display) enabled by LEDs used in smartphone, TV and tablet screens. OLED is seen as superior to LED in providing better color contrast and faster response times. Although it is currently in early adoption, its market is expected to grow to over $33 billion by 2020, according to IHS estimates cited by Goldman.

9. 5G

5G is the next generation of wireless technology expected to be mainstream in 2020. It’s the next step up from 4G/LTE. “5G should provide 100x faster wireless with typical 5G speeds of 1Gbps compared to typical 4G speed of 10Mbps,” wrote Goldman analyst Simona Jankowski.

10. Net Metering

Net metering is a policy, implemented by most states, to compensate rooftop solar owners for excess power they generate and thus offset the cost of the power they draw from the grid. Currently, 44 states and the District of Columbia have a net metering policy, though the growth of solar has resulted in some debate over how much solar owners should be compensated.

11. Space Congestion

After 50 years of rocket and satellite launches, space is getting crowded. Debris from destroyed satellites and other space junk is piling up, and that shrapnel that can destroy other satellites and hinder access to space. This is creating complications for national security, satellite communications and GPS navigation.

12. Liquid Biopsy

As tissue biopsies are seen as costly, painful or potentially risky for the patient, the advent of the liquid biopsy allows DNA sequencers to detect cancer directly from the blood. This could be a $14 billion market by 2025, wrote Goldman analyst Isaac Ro.

13. See Now, Buy Now

Keep your wardrobe up to date without having to wait six to nine months from when an item hits the runway and makes it to the physical or online store: “Technology has democratized fashion and luxury. Purchasing decisions are no longer made in the VIP rooms of large stores by the few, but by a growing base of aspirational middle class consumers,” wrote Goldman analyst Carl Hazeley.

14. Craft

You’ve heard of craft beer, but producing other artisanal products in small batches is becoming immensely popular, particularly among the young. “Millennials, who represent the largest age cohort in the U.S., are more experimental, seek bolder flavors, and have a high propensity for things that are perceived to be more ‘authentic’.” The craft market now includes spirits, soda and other “farm to table” food items.

15. The Infinite Shelf

A concept that describes the vast advantage online retailers have over bricks-and-mortar retail stores. The virtual shelf can serve a broader range of customers and build demand for certain items that would not perform well in a physical store.

16. Immersion

Immersion, or immersive storytelling, is the idea of allowing virtual reality technology to mimic being physically present in an alternative environment. The technology is changing videogames, live events, journalism, video entertainment and educational experiences.

17. Synthetic Biology

This branch of science allows genetic engineers to develop apples that don’t brown when bruised or breed salmon that grows faster than normal. Despite the technological advances, consumer acceptance of these products has not yet been tested.

18. V2V / V2X / V2I

Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) or vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technology allows cars to communicate with other road users, infrastructure and even pedestrians and cyclists. It could be used by both human-driven and autonomous vehicles, and could allow for wireless toll and parking payments. It would also allow autonomous vehicles to “see” what the human eye could perceive.

19. Ayurveda

Yoga guru Baba Ramdev has shaken up the Indian consumer goods market. Ramdev’s company, Patanjali Aurved, markets products from toothpaste to consumer healthcare based on Ayurveda, a system of natural healing that has its origins in the Vedic culture of India. Patanjali generated $1 billion in revenue from scratch and has beat out multinationals like Unilever, Nestle and Colgate.

20. Internet of Energy

The “Internet of Energy” means the process of upgrading, digitizing and automating electricity infrastructure, leveraging advanced hardware and software. The concept has taken off in China, the world’s largest energy market and biggest investor in renewable energy.

21. Basic Income

The concept of basic income is about introducing a universal benefit that everyone receives, regardless of income or employment status. It has been touted as a means to reduce income inequality. Although the idea was rejected in a referendum in Switzerland, analyst Sumana Manohar notes that it is gaining interest elsewhere.

Head Shot

Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email:

Photo Credit: TEFL

Source: Bhattacharyya 

[Infographic] Anticipating the Ripple Effects of Change (Part 2): Driverless Cars

Last week I posted a fascinating video which illustrated the need to anticipate the ripple effects of change (see Cats in Borneo). The sidebar below provides you with a quick summary of the video. It reminds us how our decisions impact, and are impacted by, the complex systems that we live within.

Systems Thinking Summary

Today we are continuing that theme by illustrating some of the anticipated ripple effects of future change from driverless cars. As a futurist, I am wired to look to the future in order to help businesses anticipate changes which will impact their organizations. The impending changes that driverless cars will bring reveal significant changes in the next decade.

Graham Winfrey provides an insightful list of five industries which will change as a result of driverless cars:

  1. Fast Food. Believe it or not, 70 percent of sales at McDonald’s come from drive-thru customers (Bloomberg). When people enter their destination into a driverless car and press “go,” they’ll be less likely to change course mid-route to grab fast food. Why? When it’s just as convenient to go anywhere for food as it is to go to McDonald’s or Burger King, people will likely choose fast food less (CB Insights). On top of this change, fast food locations near gas stations are also likely to attract fewer customers, as driverless cars will probably refuel when they’re not transporting passengers.
  2. Entertainment. Freeing up people from operating motor vehicles will present consumers with new blocks of time to read the news or enjoy entertainment. This will create opportunities for broadcasters to send video content to screens inside driverless cars and for advertisers to serve location-specific ads about products and services passengers will be near on their trip.
  3. Hotels that derive a significant amount of business from single-night customers during road trips are set to lose a lot of business. Why? It’s likely that many travelers will simply decide to sleep in their cars rather pay for an overnight stay. To be sure, it may take 20 years or more for this to become commonplace, but the roadside motel seems like a less viable business proposition as driverless cars take over.
  4. Property Values. When commuting substantial distances to work in a car becomes less of an inconvenience, property values will likely shift. Instead of the highest values concentrated in urban areas, home values will likely spread out more evenly across cities and into suburban areas. Parking garages and other spaces built around human drivers may also be converted to serve other purposes, as autonomous driving technology gradually reshapes city planning.
  5. Short-haul flights: Though most people prefer flying to driving due to the quicker travel time, shorter flights will likely see a drop in customers. The convenience and lower cost of sitting in a driverless car will begin to appeal more to people who don’t want to go through the hassle of waiting in line at the airport, going through security, and paying for ground transportation once they’ve arrived at their destination (Winfrey).

The following infographic addresses the same topic but provides some fresh insights (Owyang).














While there are many news stories which focus on driverless cars we are still in the early changes of thinking about the ripple effects of the changes they will cause in other industries. Successful companies and leaders will learn to anticipate changes such as the ones noted above. The ability to move more quickly than your competition is a key ingredient to strategic agility and  future-readiness.

In the past month our oldest child received his drivers license. I cannot help but wonder if this traditional adulthood right-of-passage is on the verge of becoming obsolete. Perhaps the DMV is yet another ripple in the pond of changes that driverless cars will bring.

Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email:


Jeremiah Owyang (Feb. 10, 2016). Chart: Autonomous Cars Change Every Industry, Even Yours.

Graham Winfrey (Feb. 2, 2016). 5 Surprising Industries That Will Be Transformed By Driverless Cars. Inc. on-line.

Image Credit: PBS

The Ripple Effects of Change (Part 1): Cats in Borneo

Have you ever made a decision that led to an unintended consequence? America’s Funniest Home Video’s has built a franchise on this premise. Trampolines, piñatas and grandparents on skateboards remind us that we have all been victims of this principle.

Effective leaders acquire skills which help them minimize the surprise of unintended consequences. In technical terms, we can do this through something called ‘systems thinking’. In layman’s language, this is simply a fancy term for becoming good at consequence consideration. This principle is wonderfully illustrated in this three minute video.

So in summary:

Systems Thinking Summary

Stay tuned next week to see how this ripple effect from driverless cars will have far-reaching impact!

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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email:


Systems thinking: a cautionary tale (cats in Borneo)

Avoiding Analysis Paralysis

“The best leaders know how to keep moving forward in ambiguous situations” (Johnson).

If you play board games you may have heard the term ‘analysis-paralysis’. It refers to people who feel compelled to consider every possible scenario. As a board game enthusiast, I find it painful when I play with people who have analysis-paralysis. They cause the game to drag and often focus on things that are of little significance. This concept also spills over into our work lives and we have all spent time with people who suffer this syndrome.

The heart of this problem relates to how we deal with ambiguity. Patti Johnson notes that, “Any leader facing high levels of ambiguity needs to do two apparently paradoxical things: First, get comfortable with the idea of not having all the answers, and second, take steps to reduce the uncertainty”.

  1. Develop comfort with the unknown: Life in the information age means that we have access to more data than we have ever had. Therefore, wise leaders develop a means to wisely respond to a glut of information. Research has dubbed this skill ‘ambiguity organization‘, the ability to contextualize the things which are important and quickly adapt when the results show that you are wrong. Leaders must possess the soft skill of being comfortable enough to act when operating in these grey areas. As access to information continues to increase, I project that people who possess this skill are going to be regarded as gifted leaders in the decades ahead.
  2. Reduce uncertainty: Conversely, there are things we can do which can help minimize uncertainty. Brian Cornell, the CEO of Target, had to determine what to do with their financially troubled Canadian chain of stores (Johnson). Studies revealed that they would not be profitable until the year 2021. As a result, he made a decision to close all Canadian operations. Did he understand every implication of this huge decision? Not at all! Rather, he used the information he could to reduce the uncertainty and then bravely made a decision.

An individual’s ability to work amidst ambiguity is also affected by their environment. Personality tests sometimes refer to this condition as how we behave under ‘norm’ versus ‘storm’ situations (storm refers to difficult or stressful environments).  Some of us demonstrate consistent behavior whether we are in normal or stormy situations. Others use different styles than they do normally. For example, I have discovered that I slow down decisions during times of high stress. I have observed others who do the opposite and make much quicker decisions in storm situations (e.g. – firefighters). To combat this, leaders must first understand their norm versus storm behaviors (as Socrates once said, ‘know thyself’). Then we must develop a plan to help with this imbalance when necessary. As an example, I try to have an inner circle to help me through storm situations and also set timelines by which decisions need to be made.

A reason I enjoy board games is that I can experiment with strategy. I can try new things and the only consequence is losing. However, the stakes are higher when we apply this to our personal or work lives. It is different when you are moving your family across the country, taking a new promotion or risking budget on a new idea. Therefore, effective leaders can paradoxically manage analysis-paralysis by reducing uncertainty and developing comfort with the unknown.


Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational Future-Readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

Patti Johnson (Mar. 11, 2015). Avoiding decision paralysis in the state of uncertainty. Harvard Business Review On-line.

The Changing Face of Higher Education – Part I

Ironically, the ivory towers of education are regarded by many to be slow learners. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that they are slow at change, not learning. The Education Design Lab recently released an insightful white paper that provides an overview of where the challenges of post-secondary education lie and where future change is likely to occur. This is part 1 of a 2 part article.


“Numerous factors are causing deep disruption in the current higher-education system: public institutions are having their appropriations cut by governments, private institutions have raised tuition but many have been unable to increase net revenue, collective student debt is now greater than credit-card debt, and colleges and universities are seeing sudden and potentially catastrophic drops in enrollment. Moody’s Investors Service, the credit-rating agency, has had a negative outlook for at least part of the higher-education industry since 2009. It reiterated its negative outlook in July. Outsiders have been forecasting for years a sudden demise of the traditional higher education system” (Education Design Lab).


It’s not that change has not occurred. Rather, the focus of change efforts have been skewed towards efficiency more than effectiveness. The Education Design Lab has outlined three major phases of educational change over the past two decades. The third phase is just beginning and holds the most promise of helping us move towards a learner-effectiveness model.

  • Phase 1 – Learner management systems. We began to use integrated databases to consolidate
    processes and enhance learner experience. This has ranged from enterprise data systems to digital
    Education Change Projectionslibraries to on-line grades.
  • Phase 2 – Courseware tools, data analytics and dashboards, and software platforms. This phase focused on enhancing the pedagogy of learning with on-line learning platforms, and software which began to blend virtual and physical classrooms. It also began to provide consolidated data and the means to track history, trends and make more accurate future projections.
  • Phase 3 – Learner-centric education. Both of the previous phases have largely focused on how the institution can do its job better. Phase three will focus on products and services  which will ‘reach out to individual learners, define pathways for their success and travel down that path with them (Education Design Lab).


There are five major categories in which change can occur: cost, accreditation, credit-hour structure, pedagogical innovation and meeting employer needs. In part 2 of our article next Tuesday, we will examine 8 ideas which will change how we educate.


Head ShotJeff Suderman is a strategist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational Future-Readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

Martin Van Der Werf. Education Design Lab (2015). The ed tech revolution is about to become the learner revolution.

Nick Anderson and Susan Svrluga (March 3, 2015) . Sweet Briar College to close because of financial challenges. The Washington Post.



More Agility Please! The State of Strategy

There is a strong correlation between a companies financial returns and their planning horizon.1 Effective strategy considers the future! If you know me or read my writing you know that I resonate strongly with this concept.

In recent months I have read several blogs which proclaim that strategic planning is dead. While these titles are somewhat over-sensationalized (see The Problem with 7 Step and 3 Things), I believe that the concept is correct. Strategy as we know it is dead and this is a very good thing because it is being replaced with something better. This is supported by a recent study which examined three different strategy models and their corresponding success rates (see Figure 1). The results are as follows:

1. Ad Hoc – Success Rate: 46% | Tagline: Hand-to-mouth strategy | Definition: This style develops and implements strategy as the organization wishes and there is no defined planning horizon.

2. Traditional – Success Rate: 53% | Tagline: Your father’s strategy | Definition: This is the best understood as the current strategic planning model which typically develops strategy for the next  3-5 years (though most actually plan within the 1-3 year horizon).

3. Agility – Success Rate: 85% | Tagline: Strategy which makes uncertainty part of the plan | Definition: Strategy is evaluated and regularly re-evaluated in the context of a rapidly changing environment. EffectStrategic Cycles and Successive organizations actively study the future in order to compete in the present and have strategic cycles which are longer than 5 years.

This study reveals that effective organizations apply long-term agility-based thinking to conundrums, something that planning and control sciences were unable to do.Pierre Wack, a forerunner of the agility movement, once stated, “In our times of rapid change and discontinuity, crisis of perception – the inability to see a novel reality emerging by being locked in obsolete assumptions – has become the main cause of strategic failure”

If we live in an unchanging environment, then traditional planning methodologies work. However, very few people that I speak with believe that they operate in a stable environment. The need to develop agility is supported by the fact that over 85% of executives noted that their strategy formulation failures were rooted in the lack of understanding of future trends.Figure 6 reveals how foresight tools are being used to develop agility.Foresight Case

Strategic planning may not be dead but I believe that it has morphed. Research reveals that effective organizations use planning time frames which are greater that five years. This requires that we shift from a strategic mindset of control to one of agility. Foresight and tools which foster future agility are becoming the new normal for effective strategy development and execution.

Do you work in an organization that needs to extend your planning horizon? Contact me to schedule a free assessment of your strategic planning processes (

Head ShotJeff Suderman is a consultant and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and their FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman



1 A.T. Kearney (2014). The state of strategy today. Retrieved from

This concept was derived from a personal conversation with my teacher and mentor, Dr. Jay Gary

Pierre Wack (1984). The gentle art of re-perceiving. Unpublished manuscript. Harvard Business School.

What if everything rises and falls on followership?

A well-worn leadership adage states that “Everything rises and falls on leadership”. I was once an ardent supporter of this belief. As an emerging leader, it made me feel important and it validated much of my work and academic career. After all, leaders make things happen!

As time passed, I came to an important realization – this statement is only a half-truth! In fact, I can only support the premise if it is coupled with my paradoxical title. If this was phrased as a logic statement it would read:

Everything rises and falls on leadership IS TRUE IF everything also rises and falls on followership.

In order to understand this supposition we must reframe followership and reclaim the full richness of this significant and powerful role. Here are three things we must do to accomplish this:

REFRAME 1: Lose the hierarchy

The term “follower is not synonymous with subordinate”.[1]

It is unfortunate that the word follower has become a word that connotes lack of power, subservience or a less desirable position. I recently heard someone tell their child, “You are a leader, not a follower!” While the intent of this is noble, it’s simply not true! We do not always lead! The role of a follower is not any less noble than that of a leader nor are effective followers second class. It would appear that the Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest attitude has erringly seeped into our beliefs about the importance of leaders and has turned followers into nothing more than a by-product of leadership.

In his book The Power of Followership Robert Kelley reminds us that the demarcation between followers and leaders is not as clear as literature makes it to be.[2] In fact, if you examine your daily behaviors you will find that you switch roles between that of a leader and a follower dozens of times each day. If this is true, then we must reestablish equality between leaders and followers. We must lose the hierarchy.

A leader without followers is simply someone taking a walk. Therefore, a leader is defined by the presence of followers. As we abandon hierarchy we give power to the role of followership.

REFRAME 2: Recognize the power of followership

“Followership is not a term of weakness, but the condition that permits leadership to exist and give it strength”.[3]

Have you ever considered how much power followers actually have? Kelley reminds us that “followers determine not only if someone will be accepted as a leader but also if that leader will be effective”.[4] Chaleff endorses the need for empowered followers when he reminds us that “parity [between leaders and followers is] approached when we recognize that leaders rarely use their power wisely or effectively over long periods unless they are supported by followers who have the stature to help them do so”.[5]

A recent trip to the U.S. Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C. reminded me about the power of followership. Countless citizens sacrificed everything to stand up to a Nazi regime. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a towering example of a follower who refused to be passive. In fact, Bohnoeffer demonstrates how followers who actively exercise their power, paradoxically become leaders. Stated negatively, how many passive followers contributed to the rise of Nazism?

In high school biology we learned that symbiosis is the process by which two organisms rely on each other in order to survive. Natural symbiosis has no pecking order, priority or hierarchy. It is simply a coexistence that provides equality through shared benefit. This is how we should view leaders and followers. Leaders and followers both possess power and the right to exercise it. There is tremendous power in the role of active followership.

REFRAME 3: Embrace mutual accountability

How often have we heard people express thankfulness that they are not leaders because this means they are not responsible for the result? In order to lose the hierarchy and fully embrace the power of followership, followers must respond by sharing accountability with leaders. I call this active followership.Purpose

Mutual accountability shifts the focus from followers and leaders and, instead, refocuses on purpose (Figure 1).[6] Challeff notes that “leaders and followers are both forms of stewardship which are directed to the organizations purpose and stakeholders”.[7] In other words, when we shift our mindset to one of stewardship, many of our misperceptions about leaders and followers are reframed. As both leaders and followers align themselves around organizational purpose, a shared goal catalyzes efforts.[8]

Both followers and leaders are important and unique. As each party mobilizes around a clear purpose, hierarchy falls away, power becomes shared and leaders and followers share accountability.

The Goal – Everything rises and falls on followership…and leadership

“The word right makes no sense without the word left” and so too is leadership and followership.[9]

Allow me to conclude with an illustration that demonstrates the power of active followership. As the Russian dynasty crumbled in the late 1980’s, Lithuania was the first country to declare their independence from the USSR (March 11, 1990). About six months prior to this, a little-known event called The Baltic Way served as a critical catalyst to this bold declaration. In a public display of solidarity and a desire for independence, about 2 million citizens of the countries of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia joined hands on public roadways and formed a continuous human chain that spanned three countries and over 600 km. Approximately 1 in 4 citizens in these three countries joined this human chain that stretched the equivalent of the distance from San Diego to San Francisco. This demonstration by millions of active followers, became a foundation which emboldened Lithuania to declare independence from the Soviet Union six months later.

“Followers at their best…participate with enthusiasm, intelligence, and self-reliance – but without star billing – in the pursuit of organizational goals”.[10]

This is why everything rises and falls on followership as much as it does on leadership.

This blog post appeared concurrently on the blog site of my friend and colleague, Paul Sohn.


[1]  Chaleff, I. (2003). The courageous follower. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler, p. 15.
[2]  Kelley, R. (1992). The power of followership. New York, NY: Doubleday Currency, p. 28.
[3]  Chaleff, p. 19
[4]  Kelley, p. 13
[5]  Chaleff, p. 1
[6]  Chaleff, p. 3
[7]  Chaleff, p. 17
[8]  Chaleff, p. 4
[9]  Kelley, p. 44
[10]  Kelley, p. 27