Leading Indicators

Most of what we do today is going to bear fruit in a few weeks, months, or years.

This means that the feedback we’re receiving today–about how things are going around us, the results we are getting, the way people are feeling–are mostly the result of actions we took in the past.

Consider our oceans: they have absorbed 93% of the excess heat from greenhouse gas emissions since the 1970s. They are a buffer between yesterdays’ actions and today’s reality. They lull us into a false sense of security that what we’re doing today will lead to a safe tomorrow.

We are often blind to this time lag. We see what’s going on around us and falsely attribute today’s results to our current or recent actions.

Figuring out how long our actions take to create results—whether in our organizations, our families, or in the world—is one of the best ways to learn where to look to see if what we’re doing is, or is not, working. When looking for the right organizational KPIs, we’d do well to home in on those that tell us what will, or will not, happen in 6 months’ time (think: new sales leads generated, not new sales closed).

The high-leverage we should be asking ourselves is: how early do I need to adjust to make a meaningful difference?

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