We all know that the old ways of planning are no longer conducive to today’s quickly changing, diverse contexts. To continue to put faith in them is tantamount to magical thinking.
— European Union/Commonwealth of Independent States Report, 2014

Integral + Foresight = Futures Ready strategy

Strategy Impact.jpg

Futures ready organisations face the future. They create their strategy at the intersection of an integral frame that structures the strategic process and a foresight lens that generates futures thinking (strategic thinking 2.0) They bring people and process together to create strategy that is futures ready.

These organisations know that strategy is about the future, being futures ready. They know that planning is about taking action today and strategy is identifying pathways to the future. They prepare for the future today.

This section outlines how integral + foresight can help you develop futures ready strategy. To achieve the impact and results you want today, to take action that ensures your social relevance, you need a strategic destination, a long term context that informs your decision making and actions in the present. And to achieve that impact today, you need people at the core of a strategy process designed around conversations about the future.

Creating Futures Ready Strategy

Futures ready strategy is created when people and process come together to collaboratively create a shared future grounded in a shared understanding of your organisation's purpose. The aim of using integral + foresight is to ensure that this purpose remains relevant over time so that you achieve the outcomes and impact you want by maintaining strategic fit with your external environment.

Using the integral four quadrants as the starting point, we can identify four major activities involved in creating futures ready strategy. Two are located in the left hand quadrants, focused on people. Two are located in the right hand quadrants, focused on information and process.

Left Hand Quadrants: The Invisible Organisation

The first strategic activity here is to involve staff and stakeholders (your people) from the beginning  of the strategy process (Upper Left). How you do that will depend on your organisation. Interviews, surveys, focus groups, strategy jams, hackathons, online games - whatever works. You want to identify their images of the future of your organisation, to find out what they think the critical strategic issues are, and their views about barriers to and enablers of change. You can only do this, of course, if you have already democratised strategy in your organisation, moving it beyond the executive suite.

The second strategic activity is to map the organisational culture (Lower Left) because as the saying goes, culture eats strategy for breakfast. Much information to help you do this will come from the first activity where you engaged with people as individuals. In this step however, you engage people collectively. You are seeking indicators of the linear future and assumptions that underpin how the organisation faces the future. You are seeking deeply held stories about the organisation that enable or constrain change.

Right Hand Quadrants: The Visible Organisation

The first strategic activity here is scanning the environment to identify signals of change shaping your organisation's future (Lower Right). You are looking beyond industry trends to the more deeper global systems of change that shape all industries to develop a deeper understanding of change that matters for your organisation. The scanning output forms the basis for the futures thinking that takes place in the Upper Right Quadrant.

The second strategic activity is the design of strategic processes using foresight methods (Upper Right). These process are generally designed around workshops or events that bring people together to develop strategy - people here means providing opportunities to people across the organisation rather than just senior managers. This is also the space where strategic options are considered, decisions made, documented and evaluated. This is the domain of what we now understand to be strategic planning.

This is not the conventional way to develop strategy

  • It requires you to move out of the strategy box to create an open space where people can come together to collaboratively develop strategy.
  • It requires leaders and managers to move away from command and control thinking.
  • It requires leaders and managers to trust staff with information previously quarantined at senior/executive levels.
  • It requires people in the strategy process to have open minds, to be willing to engage in often challenging conversations about their deeply held assumptions about the future.
  • It requires people to understand that the future is not predetermined and that their ability to think first about multiple and then preferred futures will shape their organisation's future.

Not everyone will be ready for this approach. Some will prefer to stay with only the process of conventional strategic planning. Some people will understand the need to put people at the core of their strategy processes and others will need more information. Some will just not get the need to use the future today. No matter where you are right now, get in touch when you are ready to talk more about moving beyond what I increasingly see as the tyranny of strategic planning to become futures ready.