Strategy developmentand scenario planning
There are many definitions of strategy: the one that means most to us at Silver Bullet is:
“Strategy is a shared commitment to act towards a compelling goal”.
Why do we like it?
■ it emphasises that strategy is about action: no, it's not about analysis, forecasting, writing papers, filling out forms, compiling spreadsheets - it's about action.
■ it speaks of a shared commitment - the kind of commitment that management needs so that they continue to act as a team, even when things get tough.
■ it recognises the importance of a compelling goal - the objective, which, when realised, brings vision into reality.
There are many ways of building a shared commitment to act, of defining a good strategy, and scenario planning is just one of them. It certainly isn’t the only one, nor is it appropriate for all types of organisation - all organisations have their own dominant beliefs, and the top managers their own style. Some believe that it is possible to predict the future, others prefer to believe that the future is uncertain and that the journey into the future is one of exploration. As regards style, some leaders exercise very strong control, others seek to empower.
Strong controlling leaders who believe they can predict the future are much like gods: not only do they know what they want, they know best too. Such leaders need no tools and techniques to formulate a strategy: they know. And, from time to time, they can be right.
Strong controlling leaders who are less certain of their powers of prediction often behave like gamblers: they place a bet that the future will evolve in a certain way. Gamblers need few tools and techniques: just some financial analyses to weigh the odds.
Some empowerers believe they can predict the future, and are convinced that, somewhere out there, is the ‘right’ strategic answer, if only they can find it. These are the grinders: forever grinding away on more analyses, more research, more numbers. They love tools and techniques.
And those empowerers who seek to explore are the guides, carefully steering their organisations through the uncertainties that the future will inevitably bring. How can they steer the safest course? Well, to do this, you need a map. But there is no map, for maps exist in space, not in time...
That’s where scenarios can help, for scenarios are stories describing how the future might evolve. They do a similar job in time to that done by maps in space. But because the future might evolve in many ways, there are many possible scenarios, each of which represents one possible view of what might happen over the next five, ten or twenty years. Importantly, the emphasis within each scenario is on the external context in which your business might operate - good scenarios depict the future in terms of politics, economics, sociology, demography, technology and industrial structures.
By imagining what such a future might be, you can test whether or not a particular strategy for your own business will be beneficial, should that future indeed come to pass. And by explicitly recognising that there might be several different futures, any one of which might happen, you can test your strategy against each, and see if some strategies are more robust than others.
Scenarios also heighten your understanding of risk, so that, when you put your strategy into action, you will be much more aware of how changes in the external environment are likely to impact your business. If you notice that the world is evolving in a direction for which your strategy is less appropriate, you will be able to change tack easily and quickly: far more easily and quickly than your competitors.
At Silver Bullet, we have developed a way of doing scenario-based strategic planning - to give it it’s full name – which combines our innovation techniques and also systems thinking. Contact us to find out more...