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Why should you invest in long term if you can win on the short?

It is not always easy to realize the long term side-effects of current actions. Take for instance your summer holiday spending days in the sun. Making it very easy to forget about the long-term effects of over-exposure of UV radiation. The last thing that will dwell on your mind – at that moment - is what your skin will look like when you are mid-thirty. However when you reach that age and your skin is all shrivelled – far too soon, but still - you might feel sorry.

More than average a management decision is also focused on the short term. You get a bonus if a sales-target is made. Long term investments will have a negative effect on this year performance and are postponed if possible. Many times we prefer a quick-and-dirty solution that will suit best for the moment. We also prefer to see concrete results during our own (corporate) government period rather that we plant the seeds for others to harvest at the time that we have left.

It is difficult and unpopular to take measures where you leave people unsatisfied today in order to offer them and others something better tomorrow. But if you don’t you will leave future needs unsatisfied because of unsolved problems from the past. In the south of Spain, but probably elsewhere too, the construction of new suburbs is called off because of a lack of infrastructure.

This dilemma is ever present in politics. Especially in the period before the elections. But in business it is not really different (we are all human). The taste of consumption attracts more than the smell of investment. A challenge for business managers is to take some of these unpopular decisions. Dose them right amongst a handful of quick-wins. And do not forget to sell them with the right arguments. There are plenty of them.

© 2005 Hans Bool / Astor White

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