Yesterday’s “Better Late Than Never” is Today’s “Better Late Makes You Never”

Posted on: April 17th, 2013 by Hayim Herring



There’s a challenging teaching in the Mishnah, Judaism’s first Rabbinic systematic legal compilation. “Just as a person is required to bless God for good events, so must a person bless God for bad events! (Brachot 9:5)” Theologically, this assertion says, “Sure, it’s easy to be thankful for good things in our lives. But, can we have trust that God has our best interest in mind when we’re upended by difficulty and tragedy? We’ll leave it to theologians to help us with the God challenge (and I recommend Rabbi Harold Kusher’s recently published book, The Book of Job: When Bad Things Happened to a Good Person, for that).


Leaving personal theology aside, I find organizational relevance in this teaching.


How many times in our role as leaders have we made decisions in our lives when they appeared wise, only to discover that we had not anticipated their long-term consequences? Conversely, how many times can we recount what seemed like a poor choice that yielded positive fruits? Let’s look at another common scenario: how often have we worried about an issue, only to find that it consumed unnecessary emotional energy and organizational resources because we overestimated its likelihood? When you’re standing alone at a crossroads, it’s hard to envision the many possible twists it might take down a chosen path.


Wheelorg-BannerThis statement from the Mishna reminds us that we often can’t foresee the long-term consequences of an incident while we are in the thick of it. But trying to identify and plan for the future is a primary task of leadership. It’s just that given the complexity of the world today, no one individual has the foresight and wisdom to look very far ahead with accuracy.


Fortunately, there are several methodologies that are democratic, inclusive and structured so that leaders can harness the “wisdom of crowds” effects. I’ve taken great interest in this kind of work for congregations and other nonprofit organizations. Why? Having worked in the Jewish community for almost 30 years, I know that despite our best efforts, we often play “catch” up with yesterday’s problems. “Better late than never” was a position that we could perhaps afford to take yesterday, but today, “Better Late Makes You Never” is a more likely outcome. If an organization doesn’t learn how to get in front of the curve, or better yet, create the curve, it may disappear.


That ability requires us to tap into the kind of methodologies that give us the ability to imagine a future that doesn’t yet exist. If we can do that, then we will be able to shape the kind of future that we want and bring our vision of a more perfect world into being.


Here’s a link to a report that I compiled using one such process, called the Implications Wheel®. To learn more about the possibility for a complimentary demonstration with your leadership, and how you can take better control of your organizational destiny, please contact me.




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