Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. We can apply the same adage to strategy. If we always use the same input and thought processes when developing strategy, will we really get a different result? How do we prepare ourselves for an uncertain future, when we are often unaware that we are chained to our usual beliefs?
A solution widely used by organizations such as Shell oil company, and the United States Coast Guard, is scenario-based planning. This is a tool to exercise strategic foresight, but it is not the same as forecasting. And the difference is an important one. Forecasting is predicting. This is often the track we find ourselves in as organizations. We often pick the most anticipated future, predict what might happen, and plan only around that one event. We tend to use the same subject matter experts, the same background, and the same tools.
Contrarily, scenario-based planning as a foresight tool is intended to cast a wide net to the unknown future. It helps us break outside of our conventional thinking, pushing the boundaries of our thought to examine the possible, but not necessarily popular ways the future could unfold. By doing so we accept that the future is inherently uncertain and prepare accordingly. We are not trying to develop one particular future, but rather explore many possible futures so that we are prepared for, as opposed to predicting, what we will need to stay relevant in the years ahead.
By pushing the boundaries, we expand our thought process, fuel innovation, and stay ahead of our competition. While doing our operations well keeps us relevant today, we require innovation and strategy to keep us relevant tomorrow. As I often say, “binning” what you do is not a strategy. I challenge everyone to get truly creative to stay relevant in the future. Scenario-based planning is a proven technique to help embrace uncertainty!
Are you looking to sharpen your foresight skills from home? LBL Strategies is offering a new program: Scenario-Based Planning Bootcamp. This hands-on workshop focuses on how to develop and run a scenario-based planning workshop for your organization. The first iteration will run in an online live format (via Zoom) July 12-16 and July 19-23 (10 half-days) from 1-5 pm EST. As a first time pilot, this program will be offered at a deeply discounted rate to a limited number of participants. For more information and to reserve your spot in the discounted pilot program,
visit https://www.lblstrategies.com/scenario-based-planning-bootcamp/ or contact Doug Maris at DMaris@lblstrategies.com.
Robin Champ is a senior trainer with LBL Strategies focusing on strategic foresight and strategy. She previously served as Chief of the Global Futures Office at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). In this capacity, she developed a comprehensive methodology (to include stakeholder interviews, scenario-based planning, SWOT analysis, policy analysis, and crowdsourcing) to facilitate development of the Agency’s Strategic Plan. She also spearheaded the introduction of Scenario-Based Planning in the organization and is a frequent speaker on the subject at various Department of Defense (DoD) and Interagency venues. Prior to joining DTRA, Ms. Champ worked at the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), Office of Strategic Planning and Enterprise Transformation, where she was their Lead for the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review. While at DLA, she wrote their Transformation Roadmap and was the Program Manager for DLA’s Balanced Scorecard.