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Leaders, Doppler Radar and the Art of Forecasting

January 18, 2012

Embedded within the huge field of meteorology is the sub-network of observation and weather forecasting.  And let’s face it – when we think of meteorologists, this is what we think they do – tell us what the weather was today and let us know what it’s going to be tomorrow.  Naturally, this is based on familiarity with our own local news channel meteorologists with their Live-5D-Doppler-Hologram technology.  But they do more for us than tell us we broke a heat index record and act as the spokesperson for the station’s annual “Coats for the Needy” campaigns.

  • they understand the atmospheric sciences and all the sub-disciplines  – things like climatology, atmospheric physics and hydrology as well as how these interact with and relate to each other
  • they evaluate the impact of weather on things such as agriculture and aviation, i.e. how weather impacts air traffic management and whether the local farmers can expect a good growing season
  • they forecast the weather by applying science and technology to make predictions on the state of the atmosphere at a future time and in a future location

We rely on their expertise.  We expect that when we tune in to the 10 PM news the meteorologist will let us know if we need to bring an umbrella with us the next day and how much perspiring we can expect to do.

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And we look to our organizational leaders to do the same thing.  We anticipate that they will have the ability to use their expertise with inter-related systems, their knowledge of the appropriate ‘science and technology’ (with a little bit of Art?), and keen evaluation skills to ‘forecast’ for the future.

High expectations indeed.

What is a leader, in any professional discipline, to do?  I think it begins with an awareness that as a leader it’s crucial to develop strengths in the following areas:

Understanding Systems: With an understanding of systems  – “two or more  parts that work together to accomplish a shared aim (Deming)” – a leader can then move forward to the critical task of identifying important changes that occur within a system and/or predicting with accuracy when they may occur.

Evaluating Consequences:  A leader needs to hone their ability to determine the consequences of a change in the long-term or future and weigh the risks vs. the opportunities (upside-downside) in order to take the best course of action.  Leaders also realize that the situation may change (“the hurricane has changed direction!”) and they know that evaluation is ongoing; definitely not a one-and-done.

Forecasting (and managing) the Future:  A leader can evaluate all the pertinent factors, including looking at risks and goals, and will make confident decisions and educated predictions.

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Leaders are often the ones who are responsible for visioning – developing an image/vision of an ideal state of the organization and then setting the course to get there.  And this is where forecasting can move from the science . . . to the art.

p.s.  if that Doppler radar hyperlink isn’t working, well, it’s because today is the wikipedia-shut-down-day

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