Business leaders focused on the short term are just showing up. They compete for market share this year, hit the reset button, and repeat the process next year. No serious, long-term capability-building. Count yourself fortunate if you compete against such companies. They’re easy to beat with the right time horizon.
In a now-obscure 1972 HBR article, Richard Vancil complained long-term product development expenses were buried within annual operating plans… allowing short-sighted managers to raid them. Shocking, I know. Divide your budget into short-term and long-term benefit buckets. And make sure someone is guarding the long-term bucket.
Imagine your business stopped innovating, your profits declined, and it is now budgeting time. To salvage next year, you’ll likely cut long-term costs, e.g. R&D or marketing, further reducing your ability to create high-value products. Next year, you’ll have even fewer options. This results in death or irrelevancy. If you’ve started this spiral, pull out quickly.
Of course, employees will be laughing; they’ve heard this one before. When satisfying the expectations of Wall Street analysts conflicts with building the firm’s long-term competitive strength, guess which usually wins? Any employee who’s been through travel restrictions, investment delays, hiring freezes, etc. knows the answer.