5 foresight buy-in exercises for the strategic planning process

Jul 29, 2021

I've often argued that the first step towards foresight work is starting to talk about your future, what to expect, and how to be prepared. Now we are looking into foresight buy-in and how to get started with that. I'm pretty sure you'll get the management team's attention.

Many organizations are reviewing and updating their strategies for the coming years in the following few months. If you already gained some traction with your thoughts and first openings about Strategic Futures, you could try to continue the process by trying to sneak in some future related tasks into your strategy process.

Start building buy-in for foresight work little by integrating bits and pieces of foresight work into your strategy workshop preparations, possibly into the introductory talks or even the workshops themselves. Here are five small exercises that you could pick, depending on how much time you have for preparations and how ready your team is to take these as part of your strategic planning process.

Five foresight exercises

1. Discover signals and phenomena of change

Pick ten to twenty signals or phenomena that might tell a tale of change for your business. These observations could come from your competition, technology or customer development, or be an example of a process from a totally different industry. Alternatively, you could ask your colleagues to join in and do the same.

Present these findings in your strategy workshop introduction with a notification that these things might have an impact on your strategy within 3-5 years. If you can't fit in any of the other following steps, you can just leave it at that and continue with your strategy work schedule. (I can almost assure you someone will ask you to flip back to your "futures slide" during road mapping and investment plan discussions).

2. Make implication statements to raise discussion

Analyze what 5-10 most significant change signals and phenomena might mean to you by attaching a small argument ("hovering personal vehicles will have a significant impact on our industry within 3 years") to each in order to raise critique and discussion. Plan for a 30-60 minute slot to discuss these impacts and their accuracy. It will not be enough, so your management team will end up craving more!

3. Write down some actual foresight statements

Build foresight statements to underline where you think the world is heading. This is a bit more laborious since you need more preparation time to formulate these foresight statements in writing. Based on your understanding of key trends, current development projections of markets, and your business: prepare by writing brief statements of where these developments will lead, within the time frame of your strategic planning horizon.

Design the statements as short descriptions ("Our competition will struggle with financing, which will lead to industry consolidation" or "Nanorobotics applications will decrease the need for manual work on circuit boards by 50% by 2022"). Do this on a presentation slide, write an internal blog post or a short article on each trend. Warning - if you also plan to work on your strategy in the same workshop - you will need to control the scope and duration of the discussion since it is so thrilling to discuss the future!

4. Use the statements in your strategic goal setting

Use your Strategic Foresight statements as a backbone for your strategic goal setting. Use the foresight statements from step 3 to validate your strategic goals. Try lifting the discussion up from your detailed (and maybe a bit complicated?) organizational goals to the next strategic level by writing your common objectives for key areas (which should include at least; your customers, your business models & offering, core capabilities, technologies, brand...).  Write these objectives in the following format; " in what kind of a position do we aim to be in "five" years - and why"? Try to be as SMART (you know, the SMART goals) as possible, and do note the interdependencies.

Then take time for each objective and review each one against your understanding of key industry change factors. Write down what you think will happen in the magical intersection of your objectives and the world around you. Don't worry about being too perfect with wordings, you will need to return to refine your objectives continuously anyways. The next step is to move on to update the detailed goals.

5. Summarize on slides and let your colleagues criticize

Prepare slides on one or more of these topics and focus on letting your colleagues take part in criticizing all of it. It is sometimes more easy to get involved when someone made completely false statements about where the future will lead us... And never know, maybe you'll end up planning a strategy in an organization that is thrilled to be building an exponential future for itself!

Why don't you try one or even several of these quick tools already this fall? And then, maybe do a wider, possibly a continuous, horizon scan over the next year?

Photo by Kristen MacAdams on Unsplash

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Panu Kause is the founder and CEO at FIBRES. Before founding FIBRES, he held several management positions and ran his own foresight and strategy focused consultancy.

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