You Need a Different Kind of Strategy
As a leader, you know the challenges of setting a strategic vision and plan, whether it be for an organization, industry, or region, and especially when the future is inherently uncertain and the stakeholders are far from agreement. You may have the “best” plan backed with excellent data, but the real challenges often lie in the factors that come to the fore once the strategy document is fully produced and the consultants have left: “How will we achieve sufficient levels of alignment?” “Will everyone buy in?” “Are people able to understand what the essence of the plan is, and communicate it to others effectively?” Most importantly, “What happens when the world changes again?” At Anthros Consulting, we offer a different way of developing strategy, one that involves stakeholders in a way that creates a living strategy, not one that sits on a shelf.
Engagement with the Future using Divergent Scenarios
Future Mapping is a scenario planning process that helps organizations make decisions and take actions while monitoring events in the world to continually inform strategic direction. Our Future Mapping methodology puts people and organizations into scenarios as actors with agendas, not passive observers reacting to events passing by. Envisioning, dissecting and debating a set of divergent scenarios in a fun team-based process helps people to inhabit the future and entertain the possibility of change. Considering multiple, distinctly different yet plausible futures stretches people’s imaginations and brings strategic choices into focus.
Future Mapping is a powerful way to create shared mental models of an evolving environment across organizations and diverse groups of people. As the future unfolds, your organization moves with aligned and responsive action, discerning trends before others, minimizing risks, and capitalizing on the opportunities.
Detailed and Fun Process
The core of the Future Mapping approach is a 2-day participatory workshop that brings together the thought- and decision-leaders in an organization, with the process itself beginning several months before. To create these meetings, we interview 40-60 people throughout an organization or industry, from the thought-leaders to the heretics. In addition, we call on other experts and data from various published sources to ensure all critical points of view are incorporated. The culmination is the production of a scenario building kit of events (about 120) and endstates (typically four to five of them), which is used to hold a highly prepared workshop where each team of participants interacts deeply with the information. An event is a specific action or outcome that may or may not happen at a specific future time. An endstate is a written description of how the world looks at the planning horizon and the organization’s strategic response within that world, but without detail of how that world came to be.
These inputs are used by participants in a series of structured tasks that build event paths backwards from endstates; in other words, participants live an experience of simulated hindsight: “What must have happened both in the world and by our own decision-making (and what must not have happened) for us to have gotten from this endstate to the present?”. The result is a Future Map expressed as a set of vectors, which can then be combined to offer a visual map of the whole system of possible futures.
This map is then the basis for implementation planning as well as environmental monitoring that the entire team of participants is engaged with and understands. It is a beautiful thing to see an aligned group of fired up, capable people set out to make something happen that they have dreamed up together. In the complex and rapidly changing world of the Anthropocene, top-down, command and control efforts have little chance of being sufficiently agile and adaptable. Engagement, alignment and continuous adaptation are the winning strategies.
What sets future mapping apart
Our methods invest the time needed to capture the diverse thinking across an organization and its stakeholders, as well as new thinking found in current literature and experts in the field. Our meetings created from these materials are designed to allow participants to interact with this information for internalization, exploration, and updating of the group’s mental models. After attending a workshop, participants naturally use the scenarios and events to bring discussions about their strategy into the organization's daily conversations. This is the creation of a living strategy, one that leads to the agility needed for the uncertainty ahead.
uncovering CURRENT EXPECTATIONS
During the workshop, the teams begin by discussing the event kit and voting on the likelihood of each event occurring in the time period specified. Summed up across all teams, this represents the current thinking of the group, built from the bottom up. We create a narrative from this and mirror it back to the group as a “you are here” dot on the map, in terms of how they currently think the world will turn out. Because some events are used across different workshops, we can give feedback on where this group’s expectations are different from other groups, either for better or for worse. This can be an object of discussion and evaluation, especially when workshops are repeated across an array of stakeholders.
repeatable and scalable
Repeatability and technological capability are key aspects of our methods that allow for our work to scale across organizations and communities. By using a highly prepared set of relevant scenario building blocks, we can run Future Mapping workshops throughout an organization, collecting useful quantitative insights as different groups use the same elements to structure their strategic discussion. The software services we are building will allow the strategy setting experience to scale throughout communities of stakeholders by enabling live voting/ranking functionality on smartphones and real-time feedback in workshops that engage any number of people at one time.
external ENVIRONMENT MONITORING
The whole Future Map, as laid out in event paths leading to endstates, can form the basis of an external environment monitoring system. This type of monitoring system allows the group to see if the future is turning out as it had expected, or not. The ability to recognize that events are turning out differently than they had hoped enables the group to take fast corrective actions when needed rather than freezing up, unable to move forward. Instead, they will recognize the new future as something they have thought about before and respond accordingly. For an example of this sort of tool, see www.ADKfutures.net where real-world news items are attached to events as scenarios begin to happen.