Foresight projects begin with a conversation. We will talk so I can learn about the context for your work and why you want to use foresight now.
This is a critical step in learning about how the organisation works, agreeing expectations and determining the output required at the end of our engagement with the organisation. In this step, we also agree on how to broaden the input into the strategy development process beyond the senior leadership group. This is a prerequisite for me because all people have an image of the future organisation and can think strategically if given the opportunity, the information and the time. These are the people who have to implement the final strategy, so they need to be involved at the beginning of the process. Foresight infused strategy assumes that all staff have the potential to be strategic thinkers and ultimately, strategy without people is strategy without a future.
We then co-design a process that works for your organisation, including the steps involved, staff involvement and time frame.
The process to use foresight in a strategy context happens in four steps.
Step 1: Understanding Change that Matters
Organisational strategy is about ‘fitting’ your organisation into its external environment so it can have a sustainable, successful and socially relevant future.
An environmental scan is undertaken in this step that includes both internal perspectives on change and a foresight informed scan of the external environment, identify how relevant changes might evolve over time.
Scanning outcomes are consolidated and provide input into the next phase.
Step 2: Strategic Thinking
A scenario thinking approach is used in this step to enable your people to transform scanning information into insights that will shape possible futures for your organisation. This is a critical step, moving beyond the linear business as usual future assumed by conventional strategic planning. From the range of possible futures emerges a set of characteristics that define your organisation's preferred future, the strategic destination that will guide action today. Backcasting then connects your preferred future with today to identify action you can use in your planning. Typically, a specialised scenario planning facilitator is engaged to run the scenarios workshop.
The outcome of this step is a set of robust strategic options that are used to develop a strategy document. The exact form of that strategy document is emergent.
Step 3: Strategic Decision Making
Ultimately, someone or some group makes a decision about the exact nature of the organisation’s preferred future. Once that decision has been made, the strategic planning step begins.
Step 4: Strategic Planning
Writing a meaningful strategic plan that is beyond formulaic is challenging. The phase involves working with staff (either individually or in groups) to write plans that identify how the strategy can be achieved by individual departments.
Understanding the difference between strategic and operational plans is essential at this stage. The aim is to give life to strategy in the work of staff in ways that make sense to them. This step can involve a review of existing plans and planning frameworks if required.
A useful reference for a new approach to strategic planning is: *Jeanne Liedtka, "Beyond Strategic Thinking: Strategy as Experienced and Embodied". In Manu, A (2010) Disruptive Business: Desire, Innovation and the Re-design of Business, Farnham, UK: Gower