Welcome to this journal, these thoughts, this journey as I continue my studies through Swinburne University.
Originally, for my mini-thesis [part of "Master of Business (International Business)" degree]. But now including the Master of Strategic Foresight degree.
Filed under Uncategorized by ptero on 10-02-2014
The vision statement indicates the characteristics of your organisation in the future and can help answer many questions about what it does.
Now, it is important that a vision statement be able to stand the test of time and provide guidance to decision makers as they determine the direction of the organisation into the future.
Most vision statements include some aspects of three important elements:
- a core ideology
- an envisioned future
- recognition of service to stakeholders
The core ideology of the vision statement contains a statement about the firm’s values and “reason for being.”
The envisioned future is a statement that describes what the organisation will be like if it achieves its most important goals.
The final part of the vision statement is the recognition of how the organisation serves its stakeholders, including owners/creditors, employees and customers, as well as the community and society.
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We all know that strategic planning is good. But why?
One of the outcomes of planning your organisation’s strategies is that it brings focus to what you are doing. With that focus comes a more effective and efficient release of, if you will, organisational energy.
Think of a top athlete. That athlete puts aside all distractions in order to focus their energy on winning.
Think of an A-grade student. That student ensures that their attention is devoted to subject mastery.
Think of your business, your company, your organization. To achieve the best outcome, to realise efficient resource usage, to be the most productive: there needs to be focus to all of your activities.
And without a properly formed and considered strategic plan to guide the release of the energy that is within your organisation, sub-optimal outcomes are yours.
Investment is wasted, staff are not used appropriately, business development resources are wasted. Business direction is a circle instead of an arrow.
Good strategic planning will focus your organization’s energy.
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Strategic planning is more than just gap analysis. What’s more, there is no single accepted definition of what it is.
Some say that its a top down approach, a rational approach. Others say its fluid, that the macro environment is the major determinant. Still others have a organization-centric resource-only based view toward strategic planning.
What’s your view? What’s your approach?
Is yours & your organization’s approach to strategic more of a cerebral, formalised, top-down. Or is it more entrepreneurial. That its the visionary leader who “will take us there”.
So, given then that the word “strategy” is derived from the Greek word “Strategia”, meaning “art of war”, the implication is that its part art & part science. Part feel & part intentional design.
And given that strategy has to do with the direction of your organization & its scope of activities, what are the questions you need to be asking? What are the timelines you are talking about? How much information do you need for you decision making process?
What are your values?
What then is your vision?
For, it all flows from your vision.
A successful foresight process has three phases.
The first is the gathering of information, followed by a second phase of translation and interpretation. The final phase consists of outputs where “wisdom” is created.
It is in this second phase that the processes of analysis, interpretation and prospection occur. The meaning of the terms analysis and interpretation are self-evident. However prospection needs clarification. Prospection is the creation of “forward views” or “images of the future”. It is through the application of the methods of prospection including scenario development, visioning, normative methods and backcasting, that defensible forward views are established.
The art and science of this three step strategic foresight process is in the quality and application of the produced wisdom.
The “Futures Triangle” is a great tool for explaining your, or your organization’s, actions/inactions/reactions toward the time ahead.
This model postulates that there are three forces to contend with: pull, push and weight.
The pull: what is pulling you toward your future? What visions, images, ideals and so on do you have?
The push: what are the changes that are happening anyway? What new technology, what social change, what demographic trend will impact you?
The weight: what are the continuities? What are those things that are holding you or your organization back, what inertia is there?
And so, thinking through these three factors may well unlock the future you have been seeking.
Scenarios. A method that enables an organization to peer into the future with a degree of certainty.
Scenario planning has a long history. According to some historians, scenario planning was birthed in the US military in the early stages of the Cold War and was further developed by Herman Khan. The touchstone for this prospective method is the work done by Wack, among others, at Royal Dutch Shell from the mid 1960’s.
The scenario development process is in essence a two part issue development process. The first part of the process is where the group is split into teams of three stakeholders to run through the issue at hand. The second part is where the teams come back together to form a group consensus around the issue.
1: Determining Driving Forces
2: Clustering Driving Forces
3: Identify Extreme, but Plausible, Outcomes
4: Occurrence Impact – Occurrence Probability Matrix
5: Scenario Framing
6: Scenario Scoping
7: Scenario Development
Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory (2011) is a comprehensive view of life. In his words, he was aiming for a comprehensive theory about the fullness of life:
“I sought a world philosophy—or an integral philosophy—that would believably weave together the many pluralistic contexts of science, morals, aesthetics, Eastern as well as Western philosophy, and the world’s great wisdom traditions. Not on the level of details—that is finitely impossible; but on the level of orienting generalizations: a way to suggest that the world really is one, undivided, whole, and related to itself in every way: a holistic philosophy for a holistic Kosmos, a plausible Theory of Everything.”
This Integral Theory, or Theory of Everything, is a four
- Q1 [Upper Left]: Interior & Individual (“I”, intentions)
- Q2 [Lower Left]: Interior & Collective (“We”, culture)
- Q3 [Lower Right]: Exterior & Collective (“Its”, social)
- Q4 [Upper Right]: Exterior & Individual (“It”, behavioural)
Wilber adds depth and richness to this model through the overlaying onto each of these quadrants succeeding waves and lines of development, as well states and types of consciousness.
This model’s primary purpose is for developing multiples frame of reference. That is, this model is used as guide to understanding an issue from many orientations. A simple example is money. When viewed from the Upper Left Quadrant money is seen as an indicator of the relative value that an individual places on a good or service. When viewed from Lower Right Quadrant, money is seen as socially acceptable form of facilitating the transfer of ownership
of goods and services.
Whilst there are critics of Integral Theory, from my perspective the shortcomings of this model are around the biases, preconceptions and worldview that one would bring to using this for the purposes of analysis.
Despite the propensity for the influence of personal worldviews and preconceptions upon the operation and of this model, the value in using Integral Theory is that emerging issues are rigorously examined.
Wilber, K. (2011).” A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science, and Spirituality” Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.
At a conceptual level Molitor’s (2010)“22-step Model for Tracking and Forecasting Public Policy Change” can be applied to areas other than public policy. For, as he states in the article’s abstract
“Things don’t just happen. A cascade of incremental developments and pressures coalesce and help to shape destiny”.
Broadly, his model has three stages:
- Framing topics: situation, ideas, events
- Advancing change: change agents, communication, catalysts
- Resolving issues: informal acceptance, general accommodation, rule establishment
Schulz (2006) argued, using an adaptation of Molitor’s model, that the weak signals of emerging issues are indeed the portents of change that are experienced by all. That there is indeed a lifecycle of an issue and that this lifecycle has a path from its genesis through catalysts to being an accepted aspect of life.
So, for the purposes of issue capture threshold, the stages of Molitor’s model provide guidance. For an issue to be classified as emerging a pattern of related events, of which the public is generally unaware of, needs to be identified. This identification process views the progression of idea, to innovation, to event as a continuum. Thus it can be seen that an issue that is already publicly accepted, or indeed in the process of creating change, could no longer be classified as an emerging issue.
Molitor argues that this process of issue tracking can reveal fundamental empirical and measurable quantitative forces for change. He states that a solid understanding of the issue’s context is foundational in realising high quality forecasts.
One of the difficulties of this model is in the precision with which one can place an issue. One needs to be fully cognisant of the extent of the issues acceptance in order to arrive at a suitable classification
Although there are problems with this model, it is a valuable tool from a Strategic Foresight perspective in terms of determining trend timescales and impact scope of any particular issue.
Molitor, G. (2010). “Timeline 22-Step Model for Tracking and Forecasting Public Policy Change”, Journal of Futures Studies, March 2010, 14(3): 1 – 12
Schulz, W (2006). “The cultural contradictions of managing change: using horizon scanning in an evidence-based policy context“, Foresight, vol 8, no 4 pp 3-12
An extract from my recent assignment: “What is the impact upon donations of this technological age?”
Choo (1999) states in the seminal article “The Art of Scanning the Environment” that “environmental scanning is the acquisition and use of information about events, trends and relationships in an organisation’s external environment”. It, environmental scanning, is broader than competitor intelligence and competitive intelligence, which are used to analyse a competitor’s actions & the shared market environment respectively. In fact, environmental scanning is used to scan every sector of the external milieu.
From the perspective of further understanding environmental scanning it is helpful to differentiate between the scanning modes. These modes broadly viewing and scanning. Of the two, scanning is more deliberate and focused:
- Undirected viewing: information used for sensing
- Directed viewing: information used for sense making
- Informal search information used for learning
- Formal search information used for decisions
So, for the purposes of categorisation, the scanning modes used in the assignment are a mix of directed viewing and informal search. Because I know what the area of strategic need is, undirected viewing isn’t appropriate. Likewise
with formal search. As the output won’t be directly used for decision making, the formal search category won’t be used.
Now, with respect to my process of environmental scanning, I am using directed viewing to gather a breadth of information about the area of strategic need and informal search to strengthen the case for further
understanding of the initial hits. For example, a “scanning hit” on philanthropy was the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. Analysis of the work they do, giving for specific outcomes, led to informal searches
returning articles about this topic.
It is through its outcomes that the value of environmental scanning can be realised. It can be seen that the outputs of environmental scanning or the same as information acquisition in the sphere of Organisational Learning
(Sanchez, 2008). Sanchez goes onto to conclude that the activity of organisational learning creates value in and for the organisation.
However, as Choo points out, the quality of environmental scanning may be affected by internal perceptions of either the information source’s credibility or relevance of the information itself.
Therefore, by being cognisant of the both the inhibitors to scanning quality and the process of scanning, highly relevant outcomes, or hits, can be realised.
Choo, C (1999). “The Art of Scanning the Environment”, Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science, Feb-Mar 1999 p21-24
Sanchez, J (2008). “Organisational Learning and value creation in business markets“, European Journal of Marketing , Vol 44, No 11/12, 2010, pp1612-1641
The following Strategic Foresight models deal with analysis and interpretation as well as theoretical constructs about the future.
These constructs and models can be classified and summarised as follows:
Theoretical Constructs about the Future
“Alternate Futures”, Voros
Casting our mind forward we can see an increasing scope potential outcomes. These range from “The Projected Future” (business as usual), to “Probable” (things likely to happen on current trends), to “Plausible” (what could happen based on current knowledge), to finally “Possible” (what might happen based on future knowledge).
“Dators Three Laws”, Dator
1. The future cannot be studied because the future does not exist. 2. Any truly useful idea about the future should appear ridiculous. 3. We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.
“Futures Triangle”, Inayatullah
This model maps three competing dimensions of the future. The “Pull” or the compelling arguments to attract you to progress. The “Push” or the factors out of your control the force your forward momentum. The “Weight” or the matters that are holding you back.
“Strategic Landscape”, Tibbs
A view of the future depicted as a journey through the chessboard of issues and challenges toward the mountain of hoped for achievement. With the journey based on our inherent values with the enduring vision of our role as guidance.
“Scanning Modes”, Choo
“environmental scanning is the acquisition and use of information about events, trends and relationships in an organisation’s external environment”. (Choo) Where this external environment is either the market that the organisation operates in, the industry that it is a part of, or the broader macro environment.
“Cross Impact Analysis”, Gordon
An approach that weighs, in terms of probability, the likely impact of a set related events upon each other.
“Emerging Issues”, Molitor
A three stage, or 22-step, approach that is used to analyse the lifecycle of an issue.
“TIMN Framework”, Roenfeldt
Is a way of classifying the forms of societal development from tribes, to institutions, markets and networks.
“Power of Pull”, Hagel, Seely, Brown, Davison
Is used to analyse the impact that an idea can have in terms of its participation in knowledge flows.
“Causal Layered Analysis”, Inayatullah
An approach where layers of depth are used to interpret phenomena. These layers are the “Litany” (trends and events), “Social Causes” (factors), “Worldview” (structures and assumptions), “Metaphors” (archetypes and symbols)
“Integral Theory”, Wilber
An approach that uses four basic frames of reference to interpret phenomena. These frames of reference are the “I” (interior and individual), the “We” (interior and collective), the “Its” (exterior and collective), and the “Its” (exterior and individual)
“Spiral Dynamics”, Beck and Cowan
An approach that explores the characteristics of human development. It is a two tier colour-coded path of development. Tier one colours are: “Beige” (archaic-instinctive), “Purple” (animistic-tribalistic), “Red” (egocentric-exploitive), “Blue” (absolutist-obedience), “Orange” (multiplistic-achievist), “Green” (relativistic-personalistic). Tier two colours are: “Yellow” (systemic-integrative) and “Turquoise” (Holistic)
“Systems Thinking”, Meadows
An approach where the relationships in terms of stocks and flows between the component parts of a system are explored.