‘With the benefit of hindsight’ has become an ever present of our daily lives in the past year or so, unsurprisingly. The level of uncertainty in our world, the unexpected challenges that seem to emerge daily mean often making moves for which we have little guidance or experience.
With hindsight we may have prepared differently for a pandemic. With hindsight the western powers may have handled Afghanistan, and particularly withdrawal, differently. The thing is, though, countries are often invaded to make things better but too often there seems to be little thought given to plans A, B, C, D or even Z when things don’t unfold as expected (which they rarely do). Or little learning drawn from one difficult experience to inform more foresightedness for the next.
If we consider this in an organisational setting change is initiated to improve things, plans laid and action taken. How often, though, do we reflect on previous attempts at change? The shining light of the new future can often blind us to applying any of the useful things we may have learned.
How often do we consider the unique, complex and contradictory variable – our people – in any change and genuinely involve them in shaping what comes next rather than assuming they’ll fall in line with the plan? They won’t.
Hindsight may be a useful ‘get out of jail’ explainer when things go wrong. Yet surely it has real value only if it triggers a process of deep learning so we have something to draw on for the next challenge.