We will begin today’s offering with a paraphrase of Shakespeare’s famous quote on greatness:
Some are born to the future;
Some achieve the future;
Some have the future thrust upon them.
End-game. A fascinating and often overlooked concept in personal life strategy and organizational strategy, and an extension or, more appropriately an immersion, into a specific facet of last week’s more general exploration of anticipating and planning for one’s future.
At the end of a personal or business venture, including life itself, how do we expect to conclude affairs before we turn the lights out for the last time? This question has presented itself to me in a number of scenarios recently, but an opinion piece of fracking motivated me to pull all the disparate snippets together.
Defining one’s end-game is somewhat like drafting a prenup for a strategy; before you become wedded to it, consider under what circumstances you may choose to divorce from it.
End-game does not necessarily define ‘The End of it All’. It could define the end of a job, a career, a relationship or commitment on a personal level. It can define the end of a product line, a facility, a research program, or conditions for liquidating the entire entity. It can be defined by parameters of choice, parameters of historical experience (life cycle for similar technology) or parameters of necessity (contractual covenants, declines in market share, loss of stakeholder support).
End-games are best contemplated and defined at or near the start of a venture, and preferably while there are still options. Zero based budgeting and sun-setting provisions in contracts and legislation are examples of tactics to stimulate end-game strategic thinking.
All of this sounds obvious, and yet it is often ignored on both the personal and professional level.
Let’s take Obamacare and the notorious ‘death panels’. We’ll ignore for the moment that the insurance industry has already been running those on a non-elective basis, and that the fear-mongers who ranted about Obamacare’s so-called ‘death panels’ were among the most aggressive in seeking to cut benefits of any kind and thus hasten the inevitable. The premise in Obamacare was to give people the information and opportunity to make informed decisions about how to approach an event none of us will avoid (Ray Kurzweil’s fondest hopes for the Singularity notwithstanding), and many of us have not adequately prepared for.
The future financial plight of many Boomers is also an example of individual end=games not considered, but with considerable collective consequences for society. Even those who diligently planned an end-game for their retirement years have found their assumptions savaged by an economy built on treachery and deception. Even the best end-games must be revisited and revised, but they are better than no end-game at all.
The end-game of quantitative easing is on many minds, but with little clarity. At least it’s on the radar. Even when Bernanke tried to clarify the criteria, the audience managed to muddle them with some degree of concerted ignorance. Denial is not among the ten best tactics for end-game strategy development.
What are Microsoft’s and Apple’s end games? Does Microsoft have one for its Office line? Does Apple have one for a pincer movement between Samsung in hardware, and Amazon in content and distribution? Did Polaroid or Kodak have end-games? Should Exxon-Mobil? What is Obama’s?
What is Williston and North Dakota’s end game for the decline of frack? A long way off, perhaps, but inevitable? Are they studying those who have gone before them? Are they conserving today’s budget surpluses for tomorrow’s infrastructure repairs and retrenchment and social fallout from the economic frenzy? Or do we just let the good times roll?
What are the electric utilities’ end game for a grid that is physically decaying and a distribution model that is being disrupted by renewables? Will they dig in their heels, or adapt?
What is Detroit’s end game from bankruptcy? Is it unmitigated disintegration, or are there seeds of rebirth to be nurtured, and by whom?
As I monitor the evolution of climate change, with specific focus on vulnerable coastlines and their populations, I observe the end-games that are playing out in New York and New Jersey, as some people struggle to cope with a reality that has been thrust upon them, and others struggle to deny the same reality. In Connecticut, which was comparatively brushed, but not battered, we remain largely in denial, especially in the halls of government. We are going through the motions, but we are not really coming to grip with the future.
Stephen Covey famously advised: “Begin with the end in mind”. Once you have defined your destination, filling in the blanks between where you are and where you hope to be (or may have to be) becomes much easier.
Not easy, but easier.