Transformation and strategy work (part IV): Find the force within?

Jun 15, 2017

A few topics reoccur with companies facing a strategic change. Based on those, I will look into three different transformation cases in these blog posts. I will reflect on them against their specific market position and potential external change factors.

All of these have the same key needs for strategy and transformation talk:

  • keep the level of strategy talk in the strategic planning and execution,
  • keep the focus on the long-term target and
  • build the timeline for the transformation.

This time a case of a company that is looking for the strategic growth within their own industry.

Setting the question(s)

Looking at growth opportunities for existing, sometimes even very established companies, the main questions could (and maybe even should first and foremost) be: how to find the new growth within our own business. How to maybe even disrupt your own business - before some external force does? How to recognise the potential for the change within us that will carry towards new growth?

In these blogs, our case companies are searching to find the growth come from a variety of industries, from services to manufacturing and from small to large scale businesses. Most of their current businesses might be currently under pressure from the development of technology, some are affected by policy changes, and some just think they should find a new faster-growing area of growth that can carry them forward. What distinguishes these from previous case companies is, that they think the new opportunities could arise from within their current strong points, markets or products - by adding a pinch of something new.

For an established company especially, it is essential to set the base by

  1. finding and communicating the drivers for the futures thinking, in order to enable opportunity discovery
  2. building trust in running the current business, in order not to lose momentum today, while discussing future
  3. building understanding for long-term planning and active building of futures as the reasons for the new environment scanning.

Where to start?

First steps towards discovering the hidden opportunities lurking within the house, and around the corner start with the management team. Our case companies often start with the strategic plan - realizing that building a long-term future requires setting a long-term target.

From strategic targeting, it is easy to take the steps towards imagining what life (and business) might look like in five to ten years, which trends will have affected the market by then, how will everything be different. Then you can ask - how would we be running our business, in that future. What about our competition? And what kind of an effect does this have on our strategic target? If you are brave, you might even ask what the alternative futures might be like - if it didn't go as we first imagined. Don't' forget to look outside of your own industry!

Demystify foresight work

Demystifying foresight thinking helps; no-one has a crystal ball, doesn't need to have one, and futures are constantly being created by us. Yes! Us all! Any management team can grow futures thinking muscles, by actively disregarding cynicism and instead of opening eyes, asking lots of open-ended opportunities searching questions and observing external developments. That's how strategic foresighting starts.

In smaller companies, top management might worry, that current business focus is lost with a newly awakened farsighted view and futures dreaming. Instead, in many of our case companies we've helped, we actually saw a rise in engagement, a relief that the long-term future is finally being openly discussed and new active cooperation between teams. Those are not bad results, as a side product!

Sometimes waking up that futures thinking is very difficult in stable businesses where burning platform does not burn your feet yet. There, it is crucial to engage those that are willing to look forward, support them and the process by providing other opinions, challenging the outcome and letting the discussion flow openly.

Ready, set, foresight!

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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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