Anticipation as a core competence

In today’s unstable business environment, companies need a new principle of leadership and management if they want to continue to be successful. Some of my clients have adopted anticipation as a core competence of their organizations and an integral part of their management systems.


About a skipper

It all started when, during one of our strategy workshops, I commented that managing a business is very similar to skippering a sailing boat on an ocean voyage. Every skipper has a destination in mind prior to setting sail (the goal). Every skipper plots a course to get there (the strategy). Every skipper chooses a good crew to assist him/her (the management team), and every skipper ensures that the navigation system is functioning (business intelligence).

Once the voyage is underway, the skipper’s job is mostly anticipation – checking for shifts in the wind direction, anticipating the approach of thick fog that would prevent visibility, keeping an eye on the barometer to predict rough seas and heavy weather. Depending on the severity of the predicted storm, the skipper might set a new course (a new strategy) while there is still time. This is exactly similar to managing a company.

How to anticipate the future directions?

Being able to anticipate changes in external circumstances and make the necessary adjustments swiftly is an organizational competency.

Today’s leaders need not only to react faster, but also to be anticipatory. When you’re anticipatory, you’re creating changes and combating disruption from the inside-out, rather than being disrupted from the outside-in. You should always ask yourself: “What events/trends will disrupt my journey to market?” or “What disruptions will change how my customers behave?”

When you’re anticipatory, you can not only accurately foresee these threats, but also turn them into opportunities to grow, to create new products, new services, and new markets. In this case, disruption will become your source of competitive advantage.

So the question is, how do you become more anticipatory?


Bozorg Amiri is Partner and Head of the Global Strategy Group in KPMG Finland.