Overestimate and Underestimate

I don’t know for certain what will happen tomorrow, but I have a pretty good idea. I can even forecast the number of COVID-19 deaths that will occur tomorrow, within a reasonable margin of error. But, tomorrow is not where the game is played.

For the most part, we can anticipate what life will be like in three months time.

“People tend to overestimate what can be done in one year and to underestimate what can be done in five or ten years.” – J. C. R. Licklider, Libraries of the Future, 1965.

It is important to make sure your teams are assembled and safe to do the work tomorrow, but the real chore for the CEO is to imagine life (markets, regulations, labor, technology) in five years time.

In four years, your five year plan will be your one year plan.

2 thoughts on “Overestimate and Underestimate

  1. Kevin J Nolan

    I gotta tell you that these comments are tone deaf to the situation we are currently in. I am a CEO and I am focused on survival. I do not know if there will be demand for our services in 1 month or 6 months from now.
    Now is the time to lead through the crisis not dream or imagine what life will be like 5 years from now.
    If I were to be thinking 5 years down the road it would be like the captain of the ship up on the flag poll looking for land while the boat was on fire. It would be best for the captain to get down and lead the team in extinguishing of the fire.

    Reply
  2. Tom Foster Post author

    Thank you for your comment.  It reminds me of something I read over the weekend.  We are all in the same storm, but we are in different boats.  I talk to CEOs every day.  I wonder if some will make it, some will not, some are already out of business.
    I see that PA has opened construction beginning May 1, but just because the regulation has relaxed doesn’t mean the market has returned.  I assume you applied for PPP and already made decisions about your work force.  You are likely monitoring sales like a start-up would.
    If you stood back and looked at all the painting contractors in PA, what are the characteristics of those that will be alive in 2021?  What did they focus on in the past 60 days?  What will they focus on in the next 90 days?  What will they focus on rounding out the year into next?

    Reply

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