1. Best Practice Report: Strategic Foresight and Future Shaping

    July 23, 2020 by BPIR.com Limited

    Strategic foresight refers to the discipline of intelligence gathering, predicting alternative futures, and preparing for them. Today’s business world is increasingly uncontrolled and dynamic. Organisations need to have a good understanding of the overall macro-environment – i.e. the economy as a whole – so they can anticipate risks and threats, as well as explore megatrends, markets, and product and service demands. The purpose of strategic foresight is to develop a vision and cohesive, sustainable strategies to implement today, while positioning the organisation to create and maintain its preferred or alternative futures.
    The term foresight is often used in conjunction with future shaping. Future shaping refers to the influencing or recalibrating of organisational policies and processes to shape and support an envisioned future, both within and outside an organisation. The fundamental principle of future shaping is that future shaping influences the market – not the reverse.
     
     
     
     
     
    In This Report

    1. What is “strategic foresight and future shaping”?
    2. Which organisations have received recognition for excellent strategic foresight and future shaping?
    3. How have organisations reached high levels of success through strategic foresight and future shaping?
    4. What research has been undertaken into strategic foresight and future shaping?
    5. What tools and methods are used to achieve high levels of success in strategic foresight and future shaping?
    6. How can strategic foresight and future shaping be measured?
    7. What do business leaders say about strategic foresight and future shaping?
    8. Conclusion

    Access the report from here. At the bottom of the page is a PDF version of the report for easy reading. If you are a non-member, you will find some of the links in this report do not work. To join BPIR.com and support our research simply click here or to find out more about membership, email membership@bpir.com. BPIR.com publishes a new best practice every month with over 80 available to members.


  2. Best Practice Report: Strategy: Strategic Planning Process

    February 9, 2020 by BPIR.com Limited

    Strategic planning is a systemic process through which an organisation assesses where it is at the present time, communicates where it wants to be in the future (through its mission and vision), and makes the necessary decisions to reach its goals. The process includes making sure that monitoring, control and improvement mechanisms are in place, which help to ensure the smooth implementation of the plan and mitigate any interruptions.
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    In This Report:

    1. What is a “strategic planning process”?
    2. Which organisations have been recognised for their strong strategic planning processes?
    3. How have organisations been successful with their strategic planning process?
    4. What research has been undertaken into strategic planning processes?
    5. What tools and methods are used to achieve high levels of success in a strategic planning process?
    6. How can the success of strategic planning processes be measured?
    7. What do business leaders say about the strategic planning process?
    8. Conclusion.

    Access the report from here. At the bottom of the page is a PDF version of the report for easy reading. If you are a non-member, you will find some of the links in this report do not work. To join BPIR.com and support our research simply click here or to find out more about membership, email membership@bpir.com. BPIR.com publishes a new best practice every month with over 80 available to members.


  3. So what is Strategic Alignment?

    August 19, 2018 by BPIR.com Limited

    Originally posted by Harry Hertz on Blogrige

    Vacation
    I recently returned from a family vacation to Hawaii. Our family vacations involve nine people: my wife and I, my two sons and their wives, and my three granddaughters. While we have downtime, we generally plan our days for activities we all enjoy and in which we can all participate (ages 6 through, ah-hem, senior citizens). I know there are also families who plan their vacations differently, for example independent activities during the day and then a communal dinner.

    Strategic Alignment
    By now you are probably asking, what could this possibly have to do with strategic alignment? Well, I recently read a blog about strategic alignment, in which Dennis Miller discusses the importance of strategic alignment in nonprofit organizations. He defines strategic alignment as, “the process of aligning all stakeholders, internal and external, so that all are focused and committed to achieving a shared organizational vision.” Well, our family had a shared vision of having a great, once-in-a-lifetime, vacation in Hawaii. And we had to align all our individual desires and gain cooperation of external partners, like the luau providers. Was that strategic alignment? It was challenging at times and strategic alignment is difficult. However, I began to wonder, isn’t there more to true organizational strategic alignment than the alignment of people, although that alone can certainly be a challenge.

    I did some literature searching to see if there was general agreement on the definition of strategic alignment. I found two articles in the Houston Chronicle about strategic alignment, with a focus on for-profit companies. The first article, by Steven Symes, defines strategic alignment as, “what matters most to the organization and then create a road map to achieving the organization’s purpose.” The article goes on to indicate that alignment requires planning, a willingness to make adjustments, and an involved workforce. So this definition focused on the planning process. The second article, by Flora Richards-Gustafson, defines strategic alignment as, “lining up a business’ strategy with its culture.” The approach according to Richards-Gustafson is a process that requires management to change and align its vision with leadership goals, organizational culture, and individual staff members. So, maybe our family wasn’t in strategic alignment, since there were no “leadership” goals that others had to align with?

    Finally, I went to the source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, which defines strategic alignment as, “the process and the result of linking an organization’s structure and resources with its strategy and business environment (regulatory, physical, etc)”. So, is strategic alignment about use of SWOT or PEST analysis?

    Systems Perspective
    In the end, I think all of these concepts are important to strategic alignment. But, in my opinion (and I am biased), the critical organizational concept is one of a systems perspective. It is the first of the 11 Baldrige Core Values and Concepts.

    A systems perspective means, “managing all components of your organization as a unified whole to achieve your mission, ongoing success, and performance excellence.”

    You need to view the organization as a system with interdependent operations that need to operate in a unified and mutually beneficial manner. It incorporates key business attributes, including core competencies, strategic objectives, action plans, work systems, and workforce needs.

    How does your organization operate? With a systems perspective or a more narrow approach of (choose your definition!) strategic alignment ?


  4. Automobiles, Blind Spots, and Organizational Strategy

    December 8, 2017 by BPIR.com Limited

    rear-view-mirror

    Originally posted on Blogrige by Harry Hertz

    Fall 2017
    How does an organization identify its potential blind spots? This is one of the most common questions I hear from people conducting strategic planning processes.

    To begin answering the question, I have a simple analogy that can be used as a springboard to organizational strategy. That is, today’s cars are equipped with three rearview mirrors and often a backup camera. The mirrors and camera let you visualize what is behind you, a place you have already been. They identify “competitors” from within your clear line of sight, but they do not tell you much about them. They are your “in-industry” competitors. Some cars have an embedded blind spot mirror in the outside mirrors. The blind spot mirrors allow a view of those close to you, potentially ready to overtake you. This is an important piece of trend data that puts you on the alert and identifies competitors from within your industry who might be ready to speed ahead and overtake your leadership position. However, what you really want to know is what lies ahead!You can look out your front windshield and see the road immediately ahead or use GPS to see the road a few miles or even hours ahead (the short-term horizon). This is all helpful information, but you really want to be able to look a year or two ahead and know what road you should be on and what the traffic (competition) will look like. Will you be on the same old roads or a new road (new products and services)? As a driver today, you want to know if you will be driving a car or using another mode of transportation entirely (deriving from new industry competitors or new travel modes within your industry). Will your competition be driverless cars or a hyperloop? Can you predict those new competitors today and plan accordingly? Can you even identify those non-industry competitors? These are the real blind spots you want to know as part of strategic planning, not the extrapolated data from a “rearview mirror.”At each stage of this blind spot analogy, you were broadening your view, eventually redefining your industry from personally driven automobiles to people moving. This could lead your organization to a major shift in “product line” and services, if you want to sustain the organization and its competitive position.

    The 2017-2018 Baldrige Excellence Framework describes blind spots as arising from incorrect, incomplete, obsolete, or biased assumptions or conclusions that cause gaps, vulnerabilities, risks, or weaknesses in your understanding of the competitive environment and strategic challenges your organization faces. Blind spots may arise from new or replacement offerings or business models coming from inside or outside your industry (as you currently define it). To conclude the analogy, competition could come from driverless cars or driverless car services that take you from chosen point to point (a new business model) or from outside your industry (significant changes in mass transport or hyperloops, for example).

    Where do we find the wisdom to recognize that our industry is people moving, not automobile manufacturing? How do we find what Donald Rumsfeld, the former Secretary of Defense, called the “unknown unknowns”? Kodak invented the digital camera but believed it was in the film industry/printing business, not the business to create memories that could best be shared online, digitally. It even realized that a “Kodak moment” was worth sharing but did not see far enough ahead to predict the business model for future sharing.

    In the remainder of this column, I will explore common traps that lead to blind spots, then explore some don’t do’s, and finally, how to look for blind spots.

    Blind Spot Traps
    I have identified seven common traps that lead to blind spots. Many of the traps arise from the work of Professor Bettina Büchel at IMD.

    1. Seeing what we expect to see: This is the theory of incongruence. We don’t see what is incongruent with our current beliefs and frame of reference. I remember seeing a video in which we were asked to count the number of times a basketball was passed; none of us noticed that a gorilla was walking among the players because we were so focused on basketball. We pay selective attention to our area of focus.
    2. Misjudging industry boundaries: We narrowly define our industry based on our current products or services and how they are used today.
    3. Failing to identify emerging competition: We don’t see emerging competition because they do not do things exactly as we do. They are tackling a different problem from our “blinders-on” perspective.
    4. Falling out of touch with customers: We think we know what our customers need and want. We have been serving them for many years and believe in their loyalty. We do not seek their input on changing needs or unmet desires.
    5. Overemphasizing competitors’ visible competence: We focus on our competitors’ current offerings and assume they will continue unchanged. We do not think about the research and development they may be doing on a disruptive product, service, or business model.
    6. Allowing organizational taboos or prohibitions to limit our thoughts: Our practices or policies can limit our thinking. We fail to question practices and policies that may be outdated or incongruent with current technology or regulation.
    7. Relying on history: This is the way we have always done things. We let our historical patterns guide our future.

    In essence, we fall into rigidity traps, rather than questioning the status quo.

    Blind Spot “Don’t Do’s”
    Before discussing what you should do to identify blind spots, let’s look at some “don’t do’s” that organizations engage in.

    1. Don’t be a slave to strategy: In a world where technology, business models, economics, and global political environments are in a constant state of evolution, organizations need to be agile. Slavishly adhering to a strategy created several years ago can take an organization down a path toward obsolescence. An organization can devote years to an outdated strategy, achieve it, and fail as an organization. And if the organization does not fail, achieving an outdated strategy could lead to the conclusion that developing strategy is useless. Today, strategic plans need to be regularly reviewed and modified as conditions and opportunities warrant. The approach should be toward strategic thinking, not strategic planning as a periodic event.
    2. Don’t focus on fear: While a healthy respect for all sources of competition is important, fear should be turned into opportunity. Fear can stifle breakthrough thinking. Confront organizational challenges and seek to capitalize on them through disruptive ideas and new solutions, not extensions of old ideas. Explore new capabilities needed to pursue opportunities. As suggested by Clark in an HBR blog, war-game your potential failures. Perform a pre-mortem. Assume the idea will fail and look for options to avoid the failure.
    3. Don’t trust: Don’t rely on sources that we tend to give undue weight. Don’t trust the wisdom of the crowd. Group-think can lead to consensing on a safe path, rather than expressing bold ideas. Brainstorm with all opinions valued. Don’t trust instincts, seek data and careful analysis of implications. Perceptions can be clouded by personal biases. Don’t trust minimizers. It is easy to deny problems and assume things will get better. It is also easy to assume things are better than they appear. Don’t trust individual experts. Experts can get it wrong and different experts have different opinions and ideas. Seek the thoughts of multiple experts.

    Blind Spot Identification
    Finally, let’s explore the processes you should use to seek and identify potential blind spots.

    1. Explore upcoming technologies: Are any emerging technologies capable of being exploited for your next generation products or services? Are there emerging technologies that could create new industries that challenge yours? Are there new technologies that could generate add-ons to your existing offerings? If yes, would it be an intelligent risk for you to invest early and capitalize on your brand recognition to be a first entrant.
    2. Assess global trends: Investigate global changes in demographics, political environments, regulation, production and purchasing capabilities, and markets. Are there any major shifts likely that could impact your marketplace positively or negatively?
    3. Get out of your comfort zone: Break tradition. Shake up the norm. Try to identify and test your implicit assumptions. Take your leadership team to totally different surroundings. Get you news from a different source that has a different focus than your normal channel. Talk to people that you wouldn’t normally interact with. For example, if you are a physicist, talk to an economist or social scientist or industrial engineer. Ask probing questions. Try to talk to someone new on a regular basis.
    4. Seek employee input broadly: Discuss potential game-changing ideas with employees at all levels of the organization. Solicit and listen to their reactions. Solicit other ideas from them. Bring people together from different parts of the organization and different job functions to brainstorm together and to share what they are hearing or reading outside the confines of their workplace.
    5. Talk to your customers: Ask your customers about their unmet needs and desires. Talk to your customers’ customers to gain additional insight. Observe your customers in action to understand their behaviors and frustrations. Look for creative solutions.
    6. Broaden your field of view: Don’t assume companies or organizations will remain in current industry boundaries. Look at adjacent industries and benchmark what they are doing. Ask yourself what business are you really in (e.g. automobile manufacturing or people moving)? What is the ultimate goal or impact of your product or service for the user? Given global and technology trends is there a new business model you should pursue?

    Final Thoughts
    To find blind spots you need to look broadly and not be constrained by current biases and boundaries. You need to trust instincts less because they harbor your current biases. You need to seek new and different sources of information and synthesize what you learn. Verify your conclusions. Plan a specific course of action. Continue monitoring trends and your progress. Stay agile. Look not just straight ahead, but around corners.


  5. A systems perspective to leadership and strategy

    November 25, 2016 by BPIR.com Limited

    Originally posted on Blogrige by Harry Hertz

    I recently read a summary of an interview with Wharton Professors Harbir Singh and Mike Useem. The interview relates to their new book, The strategic leaders roadmap. In the book they contend that successful senior executives must be capable of integrating strategic thinking with strong leadership skills.Leaders who adopt the Baldrige excellence framework have already successfully addressed this integrative need because of the questions in the Leadership and Strategy categories of the Baldrige criteria. Indeed, the key considerations that Singh and Useem outline are contained in item 1.1 on Senior Leadership and item 2.1 on Strategy Development and are systemically interrelated in the criteria.

    Here are the key points I gleaned from the interview and how they relate to the relevant Baldrige criteria:

    • Leaders must inspire the workforce, and must also deliver strategic inspiration and discipline: The Baldrige criteria (item 1.1) ask how senior leaders create a focus on action that will achieve innovation and intelligent risk taking, and attain the organization’s vision. Item 2.1 asks how the organization seeks out potential blind spots in its strategy to avoid a senior leader’s bias or potential lack of realization that there is a changing external or competitive environment. Such bias may cause a disciplined approach to a poor strategy.
    • Leaders may be good at strategic thinking, but thin on making things happen, driving strategy and change through the organization: This is the very reason that starting with the Baldrige excellence builder, the criteria ask (item 1.1) how senior leaders set an overall focus on action and, in specific, in item 2.1 ask about the ability to execute the strategic plan and to achieve transformational change.
    • Leaders must realize that execution is not just about the workforce following orders, but that it is about creating and enhancing the value proposition to the client and getting ideas from the entire workforce: In item 1.1, customers and the workforce receive significant attention. At the Excellence builder level the criteria ask: “How do senior leaders communicate with and engage the entire workforce and key customers?” In the more detailed Baldrige criteria there are questions about senior leaders’ two-way communication with the workforce, and their actions to reinforce a customer focus, foster customer engagement, and create customer value.
    • Leaders must balance quarterly results with setting the tone of an ethical climate and a policy of integrity first: Here too, item 1.1 of the Baldrige criteria sends a clear message by asking how senior leaders’ actions demonstrate their commitment to ethical behavior and how they promote an organizational environment that requires it.
    • Leaders must create agility and adaptability in the organization: Item 2.1 specifically asks how the strategic planning process addresses the potential need for organizational agility and operational flexibility.

    While I have given some very specific examples from the Baldrige criteria, these are just examples. The systems perspective of Baldrige means these topics are addressed at appropriate places throughout all seven categories of the criteria to cause linkages wherever valuable.

    Professors Singh and Useem summarize their treatise by saying that senior leaders must be strategic in thought and lead well. I would assert that you can simply operationalize this unified concept (and more) by following the advice given in items 1.1 and 2.1 of the Baldrige criteria. And in the process, gain a systems perspective of all that is important in leadership and strategy.