- The Processes of Organization and Management
- The Subtle Art of Strategy: Organizational Planning in Uncertain Times
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If we consider strategic foresight a critical leadership competency, how does a leader develop and refine this skill? One technique for enhancing your strategic foresight is to engage in regular scenario planning - outlining two or three potential futures with various possibilities and rehearsing how you might respond to each scenario; much like you might do when playing chess. But, unlike chess where you might memorize various moves and countermoves, in scenario planning, memorizing Plan A and Plan B is futile; "because in the real world A and B overlap and recombine in unexpected ways.
Thus scenario planning is a matter of training yourself to think through how things might happen that you might otherwise dismiss - to get to know the shape of unfolding reality. To have at hand the answer to the question: 'What if.? To this end, scenario planning enables us to understand how the future might unfold as a result of our decisions as well as external influencers.
Thus, the development of a trend, a strategy or a wild-card event may be described in a scenario of possible futures The Art of Foresight , pp. A visual that may assist in your scenario planning is a divergence map. The divergence map helps you chart out various future aspects against your present position by measuring favorable and unfavorable scenarios against your business-as-usual course of action e.
Figure 1 is a sample divergence map.
The Processes of Organization and Management
In this map "unfavorable scenarios" would reflect conditions where critical events went awry while "favorable scenarios" reflects conditions where breakthrough events occurred. There are two key points to keep in mind when developing your divergence map. First, it can be a great aid in scenario planning to identify several markers within each scenario that can serve to highlight which plan is playing out. For example, in the 80's, Shell Oil projected that the Soviet Union might very well succumb to a failing economy and turn to a free-market system.
Within this scenario, Shell identified several markers that might signal such a move. One marker was Gorbachev coming into power; another marker was that Gorbachev would identify Agenbegyan as Moscow's chief economic advisor.
The Subtle Art of Strategy: Organizational Planning in Uncertain Times
While Shell had outlined other markers along this scenario which did not unfold, enough markers were hit to give Shell a strong sense that indeed the free-market scenario was playing out in the Soviet Union Schwartz, pp. The second point to keep in mind with divergence maps and scenario planning is to avoid fixating on one scenario. Author Peter Schwartz cautions that when planning scenarios "there is an almost irresistible temptation to choose one scenario over the other s : to say in effect, 'this is the future which we believe will take place'" p.
Focusing attention on one scenario can blind the leader to other scenarios which might be unfolding because of a bias towards a given outcome. In starting your scenario planning, Schwartz outlines several steps that can help leaders build robust plans pp. This will allow the leader to identify those factors that are most critical and distinguishable in impacting a scenario.
A key tenet of scenario planning is that every future scenario will begin with cultural change, either societal, organizational or both Schultz, p. Often, technical advances will drive these changes, such as seen with the advance of personal computers or breakthroughs in healthcare. As you begin your scenario planning, it will be important to consider how your organizational culture might evolve either by design or by necessity as you move into the future.
In this regard, a helpful place to start in scenario planning is to reflect on those organizational myths that define the character and behavior of your company. All organizations have myths stories about their past accomplishments and defeats. These myths reinforce an organization's perception of "the way they are" and reflect a pattern of behavior, perception or belief of the organization's values and culture Schwart, p. Here's an interesting exercise to help you reflect on the impact of myths in your organization.
The next time you hear someone recount a story from your organization's past, pause and reflect how the organization's culture is reinforced. For example, if your organization sees itself as innovative with out-of-the-box thinkers, odds are stories will circulate that highlight this belief. The same is true if your organization has a myth of "missing the big picture," stories will undoubtedly surface that point to lost opportunities or dropped balls.
In themselves, these myths are not consciously fictitious Schwartz, p. Myths may indeed be grounded in fact.
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However, the further back the time associated with the myth, the more likely the myth departs from truth. Just as there are infinite possible futures, there are "infinite alternative pasts, which compress in accuracy as they approach the interval of the present" Schultz, p. In Figure 2, Schultz helps us visualize how both hindsight and foresight each reflect alternative past as well as possible futures. Thus, a critical aspect of a leader's strategic foresight skills will be to communicate and live a set of core values that inspire and motivate people to follow Tichy, pp.
However, when advocating cultural change; caution is the better part of valor because this type of change is akin to a spiritual formation. It is important to know going in that not everyone will be on board with cultural changes at the same time. Finally, in building your scenario plans, it will be helpful to consider the impact of global and organizational influences. For example, global leaders who are organizationally savvy are not only able to recognize market opportunities, but are able to leverage the resources of their organizations to capitalize on these opportunities Black, p.
This is accomplished by mastering the dynamics of "duality" the pressures of global integration and local adaptation Black, p. Effective global leaders build and maintain organizational savvy first and foremost by getting close to their customers Black, p. Additionally, tactical proficiency is developed in their international understanding of finance, accounting, marketing, etc. Black, p. Thus, teaching leaders "how the business works, enables business-literate leaders to build cultures of learning and innovation" Rosen, p.
https://katakingbel.tk When building your scenario plans, carefully assess the capability of your organization's global leadership. Specifically, does your organization's global leaders, in relation their ability, 1 "confront and overcome" conflicts in the marketplace and 2 have the "capacity to manage uncertainty and. It will be helpful to likewise assess your organization's inclination to tolerate risk.
Uncertainty avoidance is the natural inclination to plan, predict and anticipate as many of life's uncertainties as possible so as to avoid undue anxiety and stress. However, uncertainty avoidance should not be confused with risk avoidance. To help manage through uncertainty, successful leaders exhibit the following characteristics Black, pp. According to Black, Morrison and Gregersen, "inquisitiveness is the fundamental driving force behind global leadership success," because in the face of uncertainty, inquisitiveness not only helps global leaders seek out useful and timely data, it helps them sort out and make sense of that data.
Global leaders know that inquisitiveness is the only prescription for uncertainty when facing a mountain of inconsistent information" Black, pp. McCall and Hollenbeck echo this point when they suggest that "talent, or more precisely, potential, can be viewed as the ability to learn from experience p. While strategic visioning continues to be a leadership challenge, Lombardo and Eichinger provide a compelling summary on the challenges associated with strategic foresight when they write:.
There are more people good at producing results in the short term than there are visionary strategists.
It is more likely that an organization will be out maneuvered strategically than that it will be out produced tactically. Most organizations do pretty well what they do today. It's what they need to do tomorrow, that's the missing skill" p.
Today's leaders commit significant energy building compelling strategic visions to inspire and guide their organizations into the future. But without the ability to anticipate how this future might unfold, some leaders may find themselves unprepared to deal with the future they've led their organizations toward.
While strategic vision will help a leader plan for the future, strategic foresight will enable a leader to deal with the inevitable variations that will occur as that future unfolds. Thus, while our vision will always denote an image of the preferred, idealistic future, our scenario planning will outline those possible alternative images the future may hold.
Given the uncertainty for these alternative future images, leaders would do well to add strategic foresight to their toolkit. We are free to create scenarios of possibility and understanding. We are free to realize that the future is not predetermined, something that we have to react to and cope with - but rather that it offers a range of possibilities, depending on our responses now to those possibilities" Marsh. Black, J. The Fifth Discipline Peter M. The Pragmatics of Human Communication, Norton, Watzlawick , Paul. Shell scenarios: What really happened in the s and what may be learned for current world prospects Michael Jefferson.
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