Look Ahead to Plan Ahead

Failing to plan ahead means that often we also don’t look ahead to see what’s coming.

This thought hit me (not literally) as I was riding my bike through a residential part of town recently. As I approached a driveway, I slowed down and peered through the tall hedges to make sure a car wasn’t coming. That made me think of a leaders role in looking ahead to prepare his or her team for what might be coming next.

This then brought me back to my early days as a leader in a seasonal amusement park. We used to do the schedule a week out, so that’s about as far ahead as I was thinking and planning. In conversations I’ve had with some other young leaders recently, I’ve seen that the trend still continues.

To me what this suggests is that the act of planning ahead gets us in the habit to look ahead… but don’t we need to look ahead so that we can plan ahead?  Oh, my head.

In fact, looking ahead and planning ahead might sound similar, but they are different.  And yes, interconnected.

Looking ahead – being aware of and anticipating what will be happening, whether on a schedule or from previous experience. Looking at forecasts (weather, attendance, events, etc) that help you prepare yourself and your team.

Planning ahead – figuring out how to deal with all the things that are coming up so you don’t have to scramble when the time comes.

Looking ahead is a habit and it takes time. The process of being able to do this is also cyclical. If you are spending all of your time putting out fires and dealing with (presumably preventable) “emergencies”, then you will not have time to look ahead and will be stuck in that cycle. At some point you have to break free and find the time to look ahead so you can plan ahead.

If you work in seasonal business, the off season is a perfect time to work on breaking this cycle.  Take a look at the things you had to deal with last season, look ahead to see if those will be issues again (they will) and plan accordingly.

If you work at a year round business, you may just have to draw a line in the sand and start looking ahead.  Look at what will be happening at your place in 3 weeks, 3 months or even a year.  What can you do now (or start doing now) that will help you make that time frame a success and less stressful?

When I was working at a small year round FEC, this meant knowing what days the kids were off from school so we could staff accordingly.  It sounds simple, but knowing that one piece of information a few weeks in advance helps make sure you are ready for it, and saves you the panic and angst of calling in additional staff or running the bumper boats.

It may take some extra time in the beginning, but it will be will be well worth it when you can work your plan and not spend your time putting out preventable fires.

Thanks for reading!


If you look ahead and find that you need ways to build your teams or increase the productivity of your leaders, let me know.  I can help you with that plan!

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