Is having a viable and genuinely sustainable strategy even an option in a world that is evolving faster than we can keep pace with? From among all of these changes, how can I filter out the things that are mission-critical for my business? And what planning timescale is appropriate? One year? 3–5 years? 10 years?
Making your strategy future ready
Our disruptive world, (geo)political volatility, digitalization, artificial intelligence, disruption – we’re facing multiple global challenges simultaneously. In circumstances like these, isn’t it almost paradoxical to focus your strategy and all your resources on a single scenario? To define your strategic goals based on this one idea and to use it to create your action plan, your investment plan, and your budget?
Businesses need to consider the future systematically and factor in a range of different scenarios. That’s the only way to break out of the cycle of perpetual readjustment. And it’s the only way they can shape their future for the better, based on solid knowledge about the future. And it’s also the only way to ensure that your strategy will be viable in the future.
Strategic foresight – the key to future readiness
Strategic foresight is what separates a «conventional» strategy from one that equips your business for the future (3–5 year strategy). Before jumping into strategizing, consider your company or organization’s context on a longer (10-year) time horizon. Strategic Foresight won’t predict exactly how that environment will look, but by elaborating on several future scenarios, you’ll be able to form an idea of how it could unfold. In the process, you will be able to identify the developments that are critical for your company or organization and that need to be addressed.
Strategic foresight is the game changer that holds the key to future viability: Incorporating these insights into your strategy will maximize the likelihood that your strategy can stand the test of time.
The four essential steps to Strategic Foresight
I work with the well-established and proven methods developed by the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies (CIFS). In essence, Strategic Foresight involves these four steps:
- Evaluating the impact of the global megatrends
- Identifying crucial uncertainties and choosing the two that are most relevant
- Designing four different scenarios for the future
- Drawing conclusions to inform strategy development
Heading towards the future on common ground
Strategic foresight yields a host of benefits that really come to the fore in the ensuing strategy development and implementation process:
- It expands your horizon. We disabuse ourselves of the fantasy that we know which future we are planning for, and instead open our minds and prepare ourselves for a variety of scenarios.
- We move into creation mode. By looking at multiple possible futures, we can see more than just one path. Instead of putting the focus on surviving, the emphasis is on creating.
- There is a shared perspective. Participants in a Strategic Foresight project are given the same vantage point and work together from there to determine how to approach the future. This reduces discussions within the team about the direction during the strategy development and implementation process.
- The future is viewed as an opportunity. Creating multiple future scenarios allows us to identify the actions we can influence in order to move towards a desirable scenario, and gives us some agency in shaping the future.
My Strategic Foresight Value Proposition
Strategic Foresight is a powerful, almost magical process that provides the following two value propositions:
- First, it identifies the strategic elements that make a strategy future-ready. These are derived from different future scenarios, which have followed a simple, systematic and structured process and lay the foundation for the development of a strategy that is truly ready for the future.
- Second, it gets the team to work together to shape the future, rather than constantly and divisively adapting to change. The team is aware that different plausible scenarios exist, has exchanged views on different futures, and sharpened its focus on what is important. Strategy development and -implementation are now less about arguing for one's own view and more about shaping it together.
My approach to Strategic Foresight is based on two steps: Future screening (a one-day meeting with key stakeholders) and Strategic Foresight workshops (three to five days for all participants), plus pre- and post-processing.
PS Here you find more about the magic of strategic foresight and here the follow up of a contrete project.
Peter painted a great vision for Group Shared Services. He engaged all the people into the scenario planning to look into and and prepare for the future; he took many outside-in perspectives, embedded the continuous improvement and innovation into the organization as part of the value and culture; he set up a strategic development plan for the organization, downstream to short term and long-term goal, and he followed it up with yearly business plan.
Peter introduced me into the world of Finance being a fully independent right hand covering all the sub-topics of the CFO role in an excellent way. However, I remember him the most for his contributions outside his role, driven by his curiousness, eagerness to find solutions out of the box. His contribution with Strategic Foresight is still legendary for the senior leaders who worked in that time in Poland.
Peter is a person, who always focuses on the future thinking where we should be and what we want to achieve. He was the driver building up a strategy for Group Shared Services through Strategic Foresight considering the outside view (mega trends), the inside view (IKEA's needs) and the GBS industry and defined with us scenarios that potentially can happen. Peter is a visionary leader who includes everyone in the process of creating the future.