I recently read an article in the Harvard Business Journal that pretty much summed it up. In essence it asserted that Strategic Planning is something only smart people do. This is a myth! The problem with this myth is that it assumes that Strategic Planning is reserved for an elite group of people who are either born with a 6th sense of the future or have honed a scholastic storehouse of skills and knowledge to develop ethereal plans for the future. Allow me to turn off the smoke machine and drop the mirrors for a moment. Strategy is for everyone… you and me as well as Joe and Sue down the street.
In simple terms, the Strategic Planning and Foresight process helps an organization to hypothetically stand in the future so that they can be more competitive today. This process focuses the organization on a path toward a preferred future of profitability and considers potential disrupters along the way. Strategic Planning is typically focused on the here and now with an event horizon or future date within 5 years of today. We best know them as the three to five year plan. The three to five year plan is a great template to help us navigate the immediate future. Unfortunately many companies will spend hundreds of hours crafting their three to five year strategic plan, only to put it in a binder on their shelf and let it sit there until the next strategy meeting. Strategic Planning is not about developing a beautiful set of documents insomuch as it is a plan that the company should and must interact with on a daily basis. The plan should be tied to the organizations goals, mission and first principles and referred to daily. Once we have mastered the strategic plan, we must consider the world beyond the typical strategy plan. In this case we move into a process called Strategic Foresight.
Strategic Foresight is a deliberate process of establishing well-informed future oriented perspectives that help guide innovation, planning, and decision-making at a macro-level. The process of Foresight creates competitive advantage by providing a future context for strategy and plans. In other words, a proper foresight plan will bring meaning to the current three to five year strategic plan we refer to on a daily basis. Creating a future context provides us with a level of uncertainty that extends the organizations beyond known risks. While most business leaders are well-accustomed to three to five year strategic plans, Strategic Foresight uses a time horizon of ten to twenty-five years (or more) to look for trends and game-changers which will shape the organizations future. The process of foresight generates insights about alternatives which could affect the organizations future. Foresight assists the organization in developing problem-solving skills which address potential mission-critical challenges.
Developing a Foresight plan is worthwhile for any organization. If you believe your organization would benefit from a comprehensive strategic plan, we are ready to help! Our team has over 60 years of leadership, management and organizational development experience. If you believe your organization could benefit from our 4-step process, please contact us today for a FREE consult.
Dr. Philip A. Foster is considered a Thought Leader in Business Operations, Organization and Strategic Leadership. He is a prolific writer, published author and lectures internationally. His most recent book “The Open Organization” is now available through Ashgate Publishing. Philip is certified in both Leadership and coaching and serves as Adjunct professor at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN. He is the Founder and CEO of Maximum Change Leadership and Business Consulting, serving clients from around the world. He is a Doctor of Strategic Leadership with emphasis in Strategic Foresight and holds a Master of Art in Organizational Leadership, both from Regent University, Virginia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (615) 216-5667.