Proceed with caution when rolling back programs like work-from-home

Removing programs designed to foster openness can be tricky—even destructive.

by Dr. Philip A. Foster

Proceed with caution when rolling back programs like work-from-home
Image by : opensource.com

As an evangelist for open organizations and an ambassador for open principles, I am fully aware of the challenges organizations go through when they’re trying to effect lasting change. Changing deep-rooted organizational culture should not be taken lightly. It’s something people should weigh very carefully, debate fully, and then embrace wholly.

Once your organization “steps through the gate” and adopts an open mindset, reversing the flow of power that’s unleashed is difficult. Organizations that embrace openness shift their attention from costs to the value side of doing business. In other words, they begin seeing employees as assets capable of delivering value to the organization rather than as cost centers that must be strictly managed.

Because open organizations are built on trust, accountability, transparency, and empowerment, actually reversing course and creating closed environments can be detrimental to an organization’s long-term success. Certainly, in the short-run, we know that up-ending an open ecosystem diminishes morale, trust, and (even more so) productivity. As a result, organizations that tighten their workers’ freedoms ultimately lose market share—and their best employees.

Take, for instance, the 2013 case of Yahoo ending their work-from-home policy for more than 500 employees. Public fallout and ridicule from the decision was deafening. While the number of employees who ultimately left Yahoo as a result of the decision is a bit sketchy, we know that many were not very happy with the decision. We can also look toward noted remote-work pioneer IBM, who recently announced to more than 5,500 marketing employees that it was moving away from remote-work and had decided to “co-locate” its U.S. marketing department of about 2,600 people to one of six different locations: Boston, New York, Raleigh, Atlanta, Austin, and San Francisco. This means that individuals who normally worked remotely or from another office must now move closer to one of the six offices—or resign. This move has many employees furious. They’re abandoning work on long-term projects and looking for others jobs.

No take-backs

In my book, The Open Organization, 2nd Edition, I write about leadership intervention within the confines of an open organization. We know that in the context of an open ecosystem when leadership intervenes in decisions made by their followers, they begin to erode the spirit of openness and thereby create anger and diminish trust. This is not to say that leadership intervention is unwarranted or should be avoided at all costs. This means that when a leader intervenes or holds veto over a group decision, that it should be done sparingly and the leaders must be prepared to fully explain the reason for their override. Leadership’s role in the context of an open system is protecting its First Principles and the governance models that define its openness.

When we “walk back” freedoms we give to people, we begin to break down the morale of the organization. This affects productivity and the overall happiness of the workers. As we have seen with IBM, many employees noted that they stopped focusing on long-term projects, as they were concerned with their job stability. When we remove these freedoms from our workers—when we’re clearly focused on costs rather than value—we end up creating an exodus.

We saw this happen when Zappos adopted holacracy. We watched it happen when Yahoo ended work-from-home and we are beginning to watch valuable and talented employees leave IBM.

Sending the wrong message

When we move an organization from the freedom of open to a more rigid, inflexible structure, we send the wrong message to our employees.

In the case of the work-from-home policies being taken away, we’re really communicating that we are not going to trust employees to do their work unless they’re located some place where we can monitor them. While I readily admit that working from home is not for everyone, for those who thrive in this environment, taking it away is tantamount to a demotion.

Fix what’s really broken

When I read about organizations that are walking back their work-from-home policies, I can’t help but think that it was their policies and not their people that were broken.

Stay the course. Fix real problems. Trust your employees to do the right thing.

While I understand that Yahoo and IBM are ending work-from-home policies in an effort to increase productivity, collaboration, and innovation, the resulting effect appears too frequently to be the opposite of what they set out to do. In the end, it is not the collaboration or even innovation that is broken. What we are really experiencing is an organization with ineffective processes and policies for remote work. Bringing employees back into the office will not fix the problems these organizations are experiencing. While there are many reasons why a work-from-home policy might fail, here are few of the more common ones:

Organizations fail to properly onboard individuals for remote work. Working from home is not for everyone. It requires focus, organization and technological skills among others. Organizations that properly onboard remote workers will make sure that the new hire understands the organization’s missions, vision, and processes. They communicate these often.

There is a lack of connectivity between the remote worker and the organization. Staying connected is extremely important. Communication should be conducted via video conferencing (face-to-face), and in person at on-site meetings. Companies offering work-from-home policies should remain purposeful in their desire to keep connected with their distributed workforce. Out of sight should not be out of mind.

Companies don’t properly and consistently instill their culture in their workforce. The organization must continually instill cultural values in their employees. They can do this by clearly articulating the company purpose, values, and mission.

Organizations do not give the employees the autonomy and empowerment they need to get their work done efficiently. This inhibits productivity and certainly gives the impression that the employees are goofing.

Proceed with caution

Organizations that are contemplating ending open organization programs (such as work-from-home, flexible hours, and others) should proceed with caution. The moment the organization empowers employees, they open a Pandora’s Box that’s difficult to close without damaging the fabric of the organization. Open ecosystems are extremely rewarding, and, when done right, are effective and innovative. Moving an organization to an open ecosystem is not to be taken lightly. For those that operate in an open modality, going backward is not always the right thing to do.

Stay the course. Fix real problems. Trust your employees to do the right thing.

This article originally published on OpenSource.com. Republished under Creative Commons License. 


cropped-img_0100-001Dr. Philip A. Foster is a Thought Leader focused on the Future of Work and the 21st Century Workplace. He is a prolific writer, International Lecturer and Best Selling Author of “The Open Organization” – now available on Amazon. He is an Ambassador to the OpenSource.com community and holds a Doctorate in Strategic Leadership with emphasis in Strategic Foresight from Regent University, Virginia. You can contact him at http://www.maximumchange.com

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Death of the Computer Screen? Why Scenarios are Important.

hologramIn 2013 I wrote a scenario (see below) in which I painted a picture of the future of work. In the article, which later became a chapter in my book The Open Organization, I presented the idea that computers would be as small as a silver dollar coin and would operate by voice and hologram. Fast forward to 2017 and a C|Net article titled: World’s thinnest hologram will make screen size ‘irrelevant’. As a futurist, I am always excited when I see a scenario I wrote about coming true. Now, I cannot take credit for the idea of a Hologram by any stretch. In fact, the first time I even knew about what a Hologram even was would date back to 1977 and Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. I was… well.. .young back then…and the now famous scene of R2D2 displaying a hologram of Princess Leigh is etched in history.
 
Predicting the future and its potentiality is fun… but it is not always easy. While I can spike the ball now – sometimes anticipating a preferred future is difficult and requires a lot of information to get close to .. well.. maybe in the neighborhood of right.
 
Developing Future Scenarios are not about predicting exactly what will happen – but offering a glimpse of what could happen and what we would do with this information if we thought it could come to pass. Foresight is about creating a mental image of a possibility and then creating responses to those mental images in hopes that it will better prepare us for disruptions and market penetration. Scenarios force us into “What IF” analysis of our potential future state. It helps us to navigate theoretically through options before we have to do it in reality.
 
This is why athletes, firefighters, police and even the military practice so much. So that they can be prepared for what ever eventuality the future hands us.
 
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Embracing Open in the New Millennia

Imagine it is the year 2025. You walk into your home office and set your Smart Device (SD) on your desk. The SD, about the size of a silver dollar coin and as thick as a credit card, activates when placed on a flat surface. Sitting down, you lean forward and focus your attention on the holographic screen hovering above the SD. You say, “SD, date and time please.” In a clear voice your SD responds, “February 8th, 2025. The time is now 0900. Would you like to hear your appointments and tasks for today?” You briefly think to yourself how far computers have evolved in just a short period of time. In fact, you think, the constant we face is a world quickly changing before our eyes.

For the United States and much of Europe, the world has already begun to change as it relates to the way organizations interact with their employees. The field of employment has been shifting since the market crash early in the century. By the year 2040 it is estimated several emerging social and technological changes will greatly affect the way organizations view employment and human capital in the Westernized World.

Your SD speaks again, “You have an incoming call from Jeff and Dustin.” You turn your attention back to the hologram and tell your SD, “display call.” The hologram shifts to the images of your colleagues. You met Jeff and Dustin in your doctoral program a few years ago and the three of you formed a successful strategic alliance. Today you are meeting to discuss a proposal the three of you are working on. Your alliance with your colleagues has opened the door for all of you to compete with much larger organization on projects that you would have otherwise avoided.

The Great Shift

Since the late 1980s, Americans have begun working longer and foregoing their retirement. As a result of this trend we are beginning to see an increase in what we now call the Graying of the American worker. We are seeing an increase in job-sharing, consulting, coaching and even strategist positions growing among the Boomer population as Generation X begins taking over the reins of leadership. While the working population of the United States is growing older, fertility rates are also dropping amongst American women which ultimately will create a deficit in human capital available to replace an existing workforce. If that weren’t difficult enough on businesses trying to fill positions, legal immigration is on the decline in America creating even greater deficits in available workers. As a result of all these sociodemographic trends, we are beginning to see demand and acceptance of more flexible, freelance and collaborative opportunities in an increasingly less secure globalized world.

Emerging social and technological changes are forcing companies to move toward the use of short-term, temporary and independent contractors and consultants. With advances in technology and availability of WiFi in nearly every location, employees no longer need to pay to drive to an office setting every day nor will organizations need to continue supporting expensive centralized office space. In fact these advances in technology open the door for workers who are no longer limited by geography thereby permitting them to live anywhere they choose. Smaller offices and fewer employees working in those locations permit businesses to focus on finding and keeping essential employees while outsourcing the remaining positions to independent contractors. With these changes, businesses will be better able to shrink overall expenses and employees will gradually no longer see themselves as being employed by a single company. Employees are now able to work anytime and anywhere they choose as long as they are able to meet their job objectives.

The future of employment appears focused more on an individual’s talent. In fact, it is estimated that most jobs of the future will require higher education, advanced skills and high-tech training. The twenty-first century organization will require an ability to share ideas, knowledge, resources and skills across organizational, generational, and cultural boundaries from within and outside of the organizational system.

The year 2025 is closer than you may realize. Technological and social changes are moving at an alarming rate and while many may see the opening scenario as fantasy, the trends say otherwise. Collaboration will breed a greater competitive advantage, create influence and consolidate resources and expertise within a given organization and in a future that requires less human capital to produce a product or service. Now is the time for organization to begin examining the impact of a shrinking workforce. The Open Organization will likely be the formal response to the much anticipated deficit in human capital. Organizations will become flatter and there will be a greater level of shared information and even evaluations will come from co-workers rather than the traditional top-down leadership review. In fact, we very well could be witnessing the end of much of the hierarchies we’ve grown accustomed to since the early 1800s.

This shift in organizational structure will take time to adopt yet it is believed that these structures will be the most effective way to obtain a competitive advantage in the future. However, organizations may experience managerial resistance in adopting new organizational structures. Success is reliant on the commitment of the organizations leadership. It is necessary for organizations to address the fears of management and leadership in an effort to overcome delays in adoption.

The days of an abundant workforce are coming to a close. This shift in demographics will require organizations to view their structures far beyond the traditional business school training. Experts claim that there is a lack of future-readiness in the United State of employers and employment. Great challenges are ahead of us and the best way to address them is take the long-view and plan ahead for a new economy, new organizational structures, and a mobile diverse workforce like we’ve never seen before. These changes will require rethinking the view of hierarchies, traditional employment, and what it means to be self-employed. Technology will play a key role in the adoption and success of the organization of the future.

The conference call with your colleagues went well and as their holographic images fade, you sit back and smile. “SD,” you say, “Open RFP Alpha457.” Your SD responds, “Opened. What would you like to do?” You begin to dictate to your SD and so another day in this new world economy begins. You smile and remember a time when you used to work in a cubical and you think to yourself, “I’ve surely come a long way from those early days in the working world.”

As the story begins to illustrates, the twenty-first century organization will require an ability to share power, authority, ideas, knowledge, resources and skills across organizational, generational and cultural boundaries within and outside of the organizational system for the purpose of achieving desired goals. The world will continue to become smaller as technology advances and organizations grow in diversity of individuals from differing cultures and geographical locales. Organizational decision-making styles will grow in influence by generational and cultural attributes of the individuals from with the organizational system.

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cropped-img_0100-001Dr. Philip A. Foster is a Thought Leader focused on the Future of Work and the 21st Century Workplace. He is a prolific writer, International Lecturer and Best Selling Author of “The Open Organization” – now available on Amazon. He is an Ambassador to the OpenSource.com community and holds a Doctorate in Strategic Leadership with emphasis in Strategic Foresight from Regent University, Virginia. You can contact him at http://www.maximumchange.com

Maker Me… Welcome to the Maker Economy

A recent Forbes Article caught my eye: 3D Printing In-Stores Is Very Close and Retailers Need to Address Itprint-970-80. I have been writing and thinking about the impact of 3D printing for some time. At the 2014 International Leadership Associations Annual conference and later at a Global Conference in Panama City, Panama I spoke on the future of work and more specifically my book The Open Organization. My discussion focused on the nature of organizational structures. I outlined the scenario that was pushing us toward more open flat organizational structures. One scenario I presented was focused on the idea that we will become a maker society. Springing off the emerging 3D printing, I challenged the audiences to imagine a world in which we were able to print products we ordered off Amazon or other retail websites from our desk on our 3D printers. For larger products I posed the idea that we might pick up our order from a corner store – much like going to the local drugstore to get our film developed. I talked about how this would disrupt manufacturing, logistics, and retail itself. I surmised how this could produce new products and services not yet imagined as a result of the maker society. New cottage industries of 3D print shop drive through pickup windows and one hour delivery could possibly emerge form this era. Perhaps we will see companies begin to switch from manufacturing products to producing and distributing raw materials we could purchase for a host of items. The Maker Economy could end much of retail as we have grown to know it. Already, malls around the U.S. are shuttering their doors and windows as they can no longer compete with the likes of Amazon and Walmart. Retailers who imagine a new reality will be left as other fade into retail history [Think Block Buster and Sears].

The Maker Economy will disrupt business and government in the way we view laws, img_0112negotiate tariffs and how we identify and engage an already fractured workforce. When dealing with laws, suppose we used a 3D printer to print a pair of Adidas Shoes – Who will actually own the product? Who could own the data produced from 3D scanning your body? Would the website selling the design own it or could they sell your specific dimensions to other retailers? Imagine targeted advertising that now depicts you wearing the product that the designer is trying to sell you on.

We want the obvious answer to be that the end consumer would own the product and their data. But, what if printing a shoe or uploading your 3D scanned files signified your agreement to lose control of your data or to even “borrow” or lease the shoe for the life of the shoe itself and that once the item has reached its normal end-of-life it must be returned for recycling? Imagine how this could affect not-for-profits that collect and distribute old cloths. Or – what if the designer of the shoe could sell advertisement space on the product you just printed? All of these questions and more come to mind.

The dawn of the Creator Economy is upon us. With the election of Donald Trump many have surmised that we will see a manufacturing renaissance in the United States. I would argue that we will, but it won’t be what we might have imagined it to be. As 3D printing improves, the manufacturing in the US will likely hold another 10 to 20 years before the Maker Economy hits full swing. With the emergence of 3D printing, we will see the carbon footprint of manufacturing decrease as they switch to support a mostly raw materials output. We will also see technologies and techniques related to recycling improve and become mainstream. Intellectual property laws will need to be re-imagined to protect the branding of products produced by individuals. Prototyping will also change the speed at which products reach markets. Houses, cars and everyday objects will be readily accessible anywhere in the world in which the end producer has access to bioprinter_500x360the Internet and a 3D printer. 3D scanning will revolutionize the knock-off counterfeit industry. Mining and extraction of raw materials will increase as we source raw materials for our 3D printers. Cottage recycling industries will take on the status quo and we will find new ways to improve the economy. 3D printing will revolutionize health care. We will see technologies increase whereby we can start to grow replacement parts that are built from our own DNA thereby ending organ rejection and waiting lists. Pharmaceuticals will also be challenged in this new era of Maker Me. The Maker Economy is sure to shake up the world. Now is the time to plan for change and to minimize its impact.


cropped-img_0100-001Dr. Philip A. Foster is a Thought Leader focused on the Future of Work and the 21st Century Workplace. He is a prolific writer, International Lecturer and Best Selling Author of “The Open Organization” – now available on Amazon. He is an Ambassador to the OpenSource.com community and holds a Doctorate in Strategic Leadership with emphasis in Strategic Foresight from Regent University, Virginia. You can contact him at http://www.maximumchange.com

The Open Organization – 2nd Edition

OpenOrgCover2ndEditionIn 2014 I published what is thought to be the seminal work on the subject of Open Organizations. My goal was to present a text that provided a template for developing an Open Organization.

Nearly a year after my book was published, Jim Whitehurst CEO or Red Hat published his book The Open Organization. Igniting Passion and Performance. What I love about Jim’s book aside from the cool title is that he approached the subject from his perspective as a leader leading an Open Organization. Jim’s book put skin on the idea of Open. I would argue that Jim humanized the concepts. It is one thing to write about an organization from a case study perspective and an entirely new experience when the writer is living it out in real time.

Since the publication of my book, I have continued researching and writing on the subject of Open. I am proud to say that I am now an active member of the OpenSource.com group as an Ambassadors and Open Evangelist. Because the idea of an Open Organization is still evolving I felt it time to produce a 2nd edition of my book and address some of the changes. While most of the text remains the same and changes were mostly mechanical in nature, there are four major changes in this edition. They are:

  1. The book is now in softback and the price is much more reasonable than the original text. $30.00 on Amazon.
  2. More detail was added to Chapter 4 under the heading of Meritocracy. I begin to address some of the early challenges researchers have noted in Meritocratic organizations.
  3. More detail was added under the heading of Holacracy in Chapter 4. Where in the early text I recognized Holacracy as a form of Open, I have since stepped back from that idea and no longer consider it to be a pure Open system.
  4. In this text I begin to more deeply address the concepts of a distributed workforce. The implication of a growing distributed workforce is central to the expansion of the 21st century workforce.

You might be wondering what comes next. I will continue to publish articles, blogs, and videos on the evolution of Open Organizations. I am also writing my next book which will focus in on some key elements of the 21st century organization.

To get a copy of The Open Organization 2nd Edition – visit Amazon HERE.

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Dr. Philip A. Foster is considered a Thought Leader in Business Operations, Organization and Strategic Leadership. He is a prolific writer, International Lecturer and Best Selling Author of “The Open Organization” – now available on Amazon. Philip is certified in both Leadership and coaching. He is the Founder and CEO of Maximum Change Consulting, serving clients from around the world. He holds a Doctorate in Strategic Leadership with emphasis in Strategic Foresight from Regent University, Virginia. You can contact him at http://www.maximumchange.com

Always On – The 24/7 world we live in.

fantasy-time-clock-1920x1200

Recently I traveled to the West Coast for a conference; passing through three airports in a matter of hours. People everywhere were focused on some form of technology. It is now common place to see these tech-zombies wandering hallways and sidewalks looking down and focused on their smart-devices. We live in an emerging globalized mobile world of dispersed cloud workers. More than ever we see individuals trading in the traditional offices for the coffee house office or what is now known as the Coffice. Even I have to admit my assimilation into this mobile 24/7 world as much of my work is on the go. In fact, this article was written from a coffee house. If you’ve read any of my work you already know that I am advocate for flat, agile, open organizational structures which require new attitudes toward work and the humans that produce it. When we think about the realities of a 21st century work environment, we begin to realize that the age of the time-clock is coming to a close. In the United States the idea of an 8-hour workday has been around for nearly 150 years. It has its roots in a labor fight for more equitable and fair work conditions, yet it wasn’t until the 1950s that workers finally obtained a true 8-hour work day. The 8-hour day was hard fought by labor unions to bring about more equitable work days. Now that we are emerging into a knowledge based economy, we are very much witnessing the decay of the 8-hour work day into an on-the-go, flexible work schedule. I would argue that the more creative and innovative a company must be, the less likely it is to have a set standard of hours required for its workforce. I believe the idea of a standard day is melting away before our very eyes. Emerging 21st century organizations are going to need their employees to be in their creative sweet space as much as possible. When we begin to mandate specific times of work and work hours, we begin to hurt the creativity of the new millennial workers. Flexibility is the key to creating an atmosphere where each employee can become more excited about where they work and more importantly what they are working on. My study of the tech industry has shown that the new knowledge economy outright rejects the idea of the time clock economics. They don’t operate within the context of a 9-to-5 time clock punching world. As the world becomes more globalized, the need for a flexible cloud optimized workforce is more evident. While I very much advocate the emergence of the flexible work day, it is not without its challenges. Work-life balance can be a challenge in a flex-optimized work day. Another question we should ponder sooner than later is related to ethics in the self-led era of the Open Organization. What is certain is that the way we approach and engage leaders and followers is quickly changing. There are challenges ahead as we assimilate into the new realities of a distributed cloud based workforce. Will traditional business schools catch on to the evolution of management into self-leadership? Will B-Schools be able to stay relevant in a rapidly changing ecosystem? Leading the charge for change is and will continue to be our Millennials. By the year 2025, it is estimated that nearly 75% of all work will be held by this generation. What is certain – change will happen whether we embrace it or not.

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Dr. Philip A. Foster is considered a Thought Leader in Business Operations, Organization and Strategic PIC3Leadership. 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 philip@maximumchange.com or (615) 216-5667.

Where have all the employees gone?

Empty office with boxes and one chairIn a recent Wall Street Journal Article “U.S. Could Face High Unemployment Through 2030” (Read Here), it argued in part that by the year 2030, unemployment could be as high as 11 percent. If you have followed any of my writing for the past couple of years, you would know that I had already sounded the alarm. In fact, with the current trends forecast out we are facing an unprecedented time in the availability of a skilled and qualified labor force. By one estimate, we can expect less than 35 percent of the workforce in full time positions by the year 2040. The numbers are staggering. With an estimated population in the United States in 2040 to be roughly 382.2 million, we are looking at 65% of the population without full time work. The chart below offers a rough estimate of what can be expected within the next 26 years:

Cohort (2040)

Number in Millions Percentage

0-19 (too young to work)

84.05 22%
Unemployed 42.04 11%
Employed Full time 133.8 35%
Other 94.02 25%
70+ (retired) 28.29 7%

 

You may be asking why this is important today? I can offer an analogy based on industries, government, communities and individuals that did not prepare for the future. If we consider the auto industry for a moment, specifically focused on areas in which large manufacturing facilities were located. Detroit is a good example of how the industry changed and within a short period of time, the regions that supported the factories fell into demise. While there are many reasons why this happened, the fact remains that there was little attention paid to the future much less scenarios asking the question “what if the factory closed tomorrow.”  If you are a business leader you might want to ask yourself what a reduction in your workforce would look like. Start to look at what it would take to run an international, multimillion dollar organization with 50 percent less staff. How will a small or midsize corporation survive if they cut their human capital in half?

There are many pressures creating this reality. Truth be told, this is not something that just started happening in the past few years. In fact, the workforce began shrinking in the late 1980s and early 1990s. We have been on a slow decline for over 20 years. Pressures include a decline in fertility in the United States, a growing unskilled labor force, and a dysfunctional immigration policy that inhibits the entry of skilled labor while freely accepting unskilled labor without question.

How will we respond to these changes over the next 20 years? We can already see the results of this coming crisis. Technology is beginning to embrace robotics. Not just machines, but also software. Technology companies are developing artificial intelligence at a staggering rate. New technologies are emerging such as self-building robots and 3D-Printing just to name a few. Deficits include retooling and educating a growing unskilled labor force.  Organizations will begin to embrace more egalitarian structures in an effort to create efficiencies while maintaining a smaller organizational footprint. We will begin to see the freelancing and consulting as a growth industry. Remote workers will complete their tasks through the “cloud” and via video conferencing. This could have an effect on business travel and how we engage clients face-to-face. Clients will expect quicker response at a lower cost threshold.

While these are all assumptions, the idea is to think strategically about the future. Asking tough “What IF” questions and developing responses to mission-critical threats in the not-so-far-off future.

 

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Dr. Philip A. Foster is considered a Thought Leader in Business Operations, Organization and Strategic PIC3Leadership. 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 philip@maximumchange.com or (615) 216-5667.

4 Steps to Organizational Success | STEP 4: Strategic Planning & Foresight

4_Steps_to_Org_SuccessI 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.

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Dr. Philip A. Foster is considered a Thought Leader in Business Operations, Organization and Strategic PIC3Leadership. 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 philip@maximumchange.com or (615) 216-5667.