The future is uncertain, of this at least we can be certain.
Leaders are peddlers of hope and as such they have to hone their ability to see through the mists of time and sensibly predict what the future may hold. For leaders who like certainty and facts this is a dangerous business for sure, but if they don’t at least try, then they are condemning themselves and their organisation to simply be reactive to change. An expensive and potentially life threatening state for any organisation to be in for too long.
Strategic scenario planning can be a highly complex and time consuming activity, but it does not have to be this way. Here is a simple 7 step team process designed to help leaders hone their ability to look around corners and see what the future may hold.
Step #1 – Consider all the variables that exist, (many of which will be outside of your direct zone of influence), that can effect the future success of your organisation, function or team. They will be many no doubt, and you may not know them all so make it into a team exercise and ask your colleagues and make a list! The more the merrier at this step.
Step #2 – Sort them using simply risk management logic. Which of the variables have the capacity to hurt you the most in your judgement and list them in descending order of impact, with the most impactful at the top of the list.
Step #3 – For the top 5 variables consider a worst and best case outcome for each and estimate the probability of either occurring, from low to high in your collective judgement.
Step #4 – For the most probable, reset time and assume the outcome is happening now. Split the leadership team into smaller groups based on their proclivities, knowledge and expertise to consider each scenario. You can now run steps 5 – 7 in parallel with your team.
Step #5 – Use the ‘Implementers’ in your team to develop an action plan that will mitigate (or optimise) the situation you are now in. This creates thinking, ideas and potential actions that will help you cope should this situation actually arises. They love to react to a challenge!
Step #6 – Use the ‘Reflectors‘ and ‘Polishers’ in your team to consider what could have been done to prevent this scenario actually occurring in the first place. This enables them to say ‘if only we had known we could have…’ Again the output is useful as it develops ideas for action that can still be implemented when you reset to current time.
Step #7 – This step is for the ‘Game Changers’ and ‘Strategists’ in your team. In your minds-eye walk back from the event you are considering and think about what conditions would need to be in place now for this event to become reality? This sensitises the team to begin to scan current reality gathering evidence that the direction of travel to the predicted outcome already exists.
Step # 8 – Consolidate this thinking and consider how best to make your organisation ‘Change ready’ and ‘Change resilient’. You may well find that the thinking generated across several scenarios leads you to similar actions.
Finally, remember the words of Sun Tsu in his book the art of war. ‘Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight, whoever is second in the field and has to hasten will arrive exhausted.’
Being able to peer through the mists of time is a key leadership skill, as is getting your organisation change ready and change resilient. If you would like to find out more about how I can help you to do this then please contact me and we can see if we can make some mist penetrating binoculars.