Today’s news is old news. Today is late. Tomorrow is yesterday.

In the era of communications ultra highways we live (survive) the moment, reacting to trends, markets and making decisions in just a snapshot. We’re living in a momentum of continuous worry about arriving late, reacting slowly and being delayed. This is particularly true when working with web, where a ten minute visit is considered long.

Be good to me and let me get a tad pseudo-philosophical. Just 100 years ago musical pieces spanned someplace in between 20 minutes and 1 hour (average). Today’s pop music songs rarely last more than 4 and a half minutes. But then again 150 years ago people lived shorter lives. Sounds like a contradiction? Not really.

It’s all a matter of options and choices. In the good ol’ days before mass production you barely could choose anything you your “short life”. (I’m over simplifying, I know).

Today you get to choose your TV channel, your favourite brands for clothing, gadgets, cars, food, and a long etcetera. You even get to choose your government (if born on the “right” place).

And everything happens in a snap. An Argentine rock song says “I don’t know what I want, but I want it now”. When buying on-line something as trivial as having to wait a couple of seconds too long for a server to react can cost thousands of dollars. Thus you need to react fast. If the competition offers something similar to our stuff and at a better price people will find out really quick.

Now even though quick reaction times to events unfolding is a must in today’s world, it is of little use if those reactions are not part of a bigger, longer term scheme. You might “win” today’s battle, but if you are not already planning future moves, a larger policy, a bigger and broader idea you will end up loosing on the long term.

When looked under the microscope today’s markets are as volatile as ethanol. Thus it makes things quite challenging to policy makers to predict what will happen  in the long run. But if you can have a broader look, take into account global variables and the largest scale you can see clearly defined trends evolving.

It is impossible to get too detailed on long term plans. Its just a waste of time and resources, and not worth it since it is details that change on a daily basis. Thus you need a strong idea and direction, and go working the lower layers of it as time and events evolve.

Don’t get confused “We need to sale twice as much next year” is not a plan, its merely an objective. Don’t get me wrong, clear objectives are a must, without them there is no plan, its just not the subject of this rant.

Plans need to be flexible enough to allow changes at a lower level without affecting the broader scheme,  in other words, the how can change without affecting the what. For example, you want to increase sales in a 4-fold (objective), your plan includes changing the e-commerce engine, and in the midst of it all comes up a company providing the ultimate web-based commerce tool, you can switch to that, and everything in the higher levels remains unchanged.

You should always have plans and objectives set for long terms of time. You should know where you want to be in 1, 5 and 10 years (at least), and have the in mind the frame-set to actually get there, bearing in mind that small variables change in a snap, but the broader look evolves more slowly, even in hi-tech, continuously evolving environments. We have no way of knowing for certain what computer  technologies will be available (variables), but we know for sure things will evolve (constant).

It is a must to distinguish between what things are likely to change and which are bound either stay static or evolve in a predictable way. With this clearly in mind its easy to set the long term and variable “columns” with which we’ll work.

Of course there’s no such thing as a cataclysm-proof plan. Unforeseen events are ought to and will happen. Certain things can adapt or prevail, some you will have to change. There’s nothing wrong with changing the long term ideas if it is necessary. Overall, unless a meteor hits the earth, your plans should be able to survive and stay current with only minor adjustments.

As a last comment I highly encourage everyone to get a grasp on the long now foundation, which has a lot of philosophical and not-so-philosophical arguments on long term planning.

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