Thought Leadership
Wed Apr 13 2022

The Art of Predictive Management

Strengthen your leadership with prediction.

The best way to predict the future is to create it - Peter Drucker

Prediction Machines. Really this - above all else - is the human brain’s superpower (see Predictive Machines by Ajay Agarwal, Avi Goldfarb and Joshua Gans).

Often we are predicting what we think we have actually seen. Your optic nerve creates a large blind spot right in the middle of your retina. You don’t see it because you are predicting in that space.

Our phenomenal reading speed - 200 words per minute - is driven by prediction. You are not internalizing every symbol, every alphabet, every word, and not even the sentence.

Our intuition. When someone knows that something is about to happen. They feel it, but do not know why. This is the brain’s prediction power working without touching our cognitive mind. This is why we feel and we cannot always articulate.

When it comes to management - running teams or managing leaders - there has been a management consensus of the last decade, first inspired by the original work of Peter Drucker.

A mechanical framework really: set objectives, set metrics, co-define goals, create ownership and space, problem solve often enough, let some succeed/fail, and carrot-stick accordingly.

Generally a good framework. Though it does need a positive culture of growth.

That most human of skills.

One component is still lacking. That age old human skill: the use of prediction. 

As a leader, you set someone up with objectives, ownership and space to perform.

Now step back. 

Predict how they are going to do. Do you think they will fail or succeed?

If not going to hit the mark, predict why this is. What does your intuition tell you?

Will their project management falter? 

Will their structuring of the problem be weak? 

Will their ability to work with important stakeholders hold them back? 

Will they struggle to see the big picture, not focusing on what really matters?

Given what your prediction says. Now plan your coaching and intervention to keep them on track. Do not wait for them to fail, and then apply carrot-stick.

If you predict they will fail in how they work with their team members, make the connection for them, coach them through the conversation.

If you predict they will fail because they cannot structure the problem up front, then co-drive this with them. Show them and coach them. Explain they need to learn and lead this next time.

If they struggle seeing the forest from the trees, ask them every week - in some cases every day: “What are your big rocks? What really matters?” Then, course correct for them.

Pros and only pros.

“This is micro-management” - No, it is selective coaching at their weakest points. They are still given space to perform, fully applying what they are good at.

“People only learn from failure. Let them fail” - You had this luxury when we were in school and university - no-regret learning spaces. Now, we are running companies that must succeed. There isn’t room for failure to learn. The company is set back. If someone is going to fail, it needs an intervention now.

“This is time consuming as a leader” - This is your job as a leader: ensuring your teams are successful. You need to deploy your own time like a lightning strike so it is well used to max effect. Using predictions means you focus on the probable weak points, not everywhere.

Both conscious and unconscious prediction.

Is this really using prediction the way the human brain does? 

Yes it is. There are two types of prediction at work.

On the one hand, you are forcing yourself to exercise cognitive prediction. Consciously stepping back and thinking about the situation in order to predict what might happen.

Having triggered this, the prediction you are making is actually furnished by your intuitions. Your instincts on the person in question - their abilities and skills - as well as your understanding of how people perform in challenging situations.

Good basic management involves structure and disciplined process. 

Great and senior management is driven by intuition. 

The more you practice active prediction, the faster you strengthen your management intuition.

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CEO (joint) at Bright Money
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