One of my favorite sayings about the technology business is that it is very easy to predict the future….the problem is getting the timing right! For example, everyone knew electric cars were an inevitable innovation that would attract customers, but many companies went broke trying to sell an electric car before Tesla got it right. Now if you know something is inevitable, you should prepare for the event. The challenge of course is that you can never be quite sure of the timing.
Because of this uncertainty about timing, I have seen many CEOs not take action until it is too late. I often see a similar problem when dealing with people issues. I remember a board meeting I once attended where the discussion turned to executive talent. One board member made the point that it was clear the CEO needed to upgrade his team in a couple of key areas. He knew the growth the company was expecting in these areas would overwhelm the abilities of the current executives. The problem was it was unclear whether the issues would arise in the next year or a couple of years out. The CEO defended not doing anything immediately by saying the organization is going through a lot of change and making a change now would be risky.
Of course changes at the executive level are always risky. On the other hand, the CEO agreed that it was inevitable the executives would fail at some point. It hit me at that moment that a key skill for any CEO is not just the ability to see the future but more importantly, the courage to act on the future they see. Once you are convinced of the future, the faster you act to prepare for it the better for everyone.