Byron's Babbles

Creating A New Future: Practice Before Theory

iStock_000005034683Small-The-Future1“The important thing is to identify the ‘future that has already happened.'” ~ Peter Drucker

As an “Energetic Change Agent,” I was really into the week 19 lesson in Maciariello’s (2014) A Year with Peter Drucker: 52 Weeks of Coaching for Leadership and Effectiveness. If you have not begun the journey of reading this book, let me recommend it again. This week’s lesson dealt with identifying emerging trends and how that is different from trying to forecast the future. Identifying trends concentrates on directions and patterns. We must, as leaders, discern patterns from emerging trends, and separate fads from real changes (Maciariello, 2014). I have blogged about change before in other posts, but really dug into this topic in a post entitled: Change Creation is Proactive. You can read that post by clicking here.

Leaders who are effective at facilitating change capitalize on emerging trends and use them to create a new future for their organizations, thus providing a competitive advantage in times of rapid change, This is proactive, not reactive! Again, as was stated in the Drucker quote, this is an exercise in “seeing the future that has already happened.” To create the future any other way is reacting rather than acting, which is what one does if one grows quickly. We need to make sure to study the trends and look for the ‘certainties’ of the future. One place to look for this is in the demographics.year-with-peter-drucker One important part of change that I believe was left out of this lesson, and may be discussed in future weeks, is how some organizations ability to create the new future will be impaired by legislation and other government misunderstanding or slowness to adjust. An example is my own: education. As I look back to this year’s legislative session here in Indiana there was a lot of work around education. It is interesting to me that our House of Representatives is very pro “school choice” and innovative practices such as online education, but our Senate is not. Some of our legislation passed is helpful toward the ‘new future,’ but part of it still does not necessarily hinder practices for facilitating futuristic change, but certainly does not serve as a catalyst either.

Therefore, it will be important for us, as leaders of these affected organizations, to help all involved in decision/policy-making to understand the methodology that Drucker outlines to identify “the future that has already happened.” As I describe what Drucker calls the “seven windows of opportunity,” (Maciariello, 2014) think about online education as an example. Online education is already here and I believe everyone would agree it is not going away – nor should it go away. Amazingly, however, there are those that continue to try to block any legislation or policies that help to improve or make online education more effective. So we (and leaders of other such change) will need to help all of those involved understand the seven sources that Drucker outlines as: (1) unexpected success or failure, (2) incongruities, (3) process need, (4) a change in industry or market structure, (5) demographics, (6) changes in perception, (7) new knowledge (Maciariello, 2014). I believe you can extrapolate the implications of the seven windows to your organization. I believe in my own case we have done a pretty good job beginning to work on windows 5, 6, and 7, but we need to continue to put the whole package together to continue to move our cause for the students we serve forward.

“Theory organizes the new realities, it rarely creates them.” ~ Peter Drucker

As a rule, theory does not precede practice (Maciariello, 2014). Decision and policy-makers in government and organizations need to remember this. They need to understand, and few do, that events that have already occurred do not fit their present-day assumptions, and thereby create new realities. We must make sure our policies and structures support “the future that has already happened.”

What steps are you taking to turn future trends and needs into your advantage?

Look for “the future that has already happened” and turn it into an opportunity for innovation. If you do this, you can become an effective change leader. If you are a policy or decision-maker, please make sure you are thinking about how you can support “the future that has already happened.”


Maciariello, J. A. (2014). A year with Peter Drucker: 52 weeks of coaching for leadership effectiveness. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.


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