Put Your History To Work For You

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One wall of the conference room was covered with flip charts from floor to ceiling. The senior executive team had spent the last two hours analyzing its past looking for insights about its future.

One of the team members leaned back in his chair and said, “You know, I’ve always known all that, but I never really saw it before.”

What he meant was that by looking deeply at what was happening at various points in the past, the organization’s history went from a disconnected set of anecdotes to a goldmine of lessons about success and failure. Patterns began to emerge that yielded valuable insights.

For example, one key lesson was that whenever they suffered a business downturn it was always associated with the organization being very inwardly focused. The team made sure that as part of their going-forward plan they made a consistent effort to stay connected to their customers and community. They also made a decision to invest more time studying their competitors. These decisions have kept them on a success track for the past several years.

Here is how you can put your history to work for you. Get your team together and do a Turning Points Analysis:

Brainstorm various events from your organization’s past that triggered a turning point. Define a turning point as a point in time when your organization’s fortunes took a significant turn for the better or worse. Some examples from our clients are:

  •  A new competitor emerged
  • A major contract was lost
  • A new service was a big success

Select four or five of the most significant turning points. Try to have a mix of both positive and negative events.

List what was happening in critical areas effecting your organization around the time of each turning point. Some examples include:

  • Competition
  • Profit Drivers
  • Relationship between the organization and customers

Study the chart with your team. Identify the lessons for your future that are buried in the stories from your past.  You may see something that you've always known, but never really saw before.

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