December 08, 2009

Analyst Spotlight: Anticipation

Dear Analysts:

One of the most important skills you can acquire is the gift of "anticipation".

This isn't an easy skill to obtain, and it requires you to spend a lot of time listening to what others say.

In late 2002, our ability to forecast new store performance at Nordstrom wasn't as good as we wanted for it to be. My Business Intelligence Director, without being specifically asked to do so by management, created a new real estate model, one that we could backtest against prior store openings. He was able to demonstrate that his model was much more accurate than anything that had been done. And even though his model was scrutinized by management, it was implemented. Future forecasts were much closer to actual performance.

This person, the Business Intelligence Director, had no prior experience in new store forecasting. This person, however, could anticipate what the company needed. This person anticipated what the biggest "pain point" was ... forecasts that were not accurate.

By anticipating what was needed (a new forecasting model) and by anticipating what the pain point was (accuracy), this person became an important part of an expensive capital investment process at Nordstrom.

This is the opportunity that is available to you, dear analyst. You, too, can make a difference, in fact, you already make a difference. But you can expand your sphere of influence by listening to what leadership is actually saying, by anticipating needs and building solutions to those needs before leadership specifically asks somebody to solve a problem for them.

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