Practice frameworks validated and enriched these two foresight steps to define the potential consequences and actions from scenarios and to deliver input to strategy development. One of the contributions to new practice is the identification of core strategic topics. At the end of the series of scenario/future workshops, an organisation is capable of defining the key strategic topics which will influence strategy development. In the example of the case organisation, these topics are used to start the strategy process. Scenario transfer is the driver for preparing an organisation and building readiness for change in terms of future strategic projects, innovation and culture building. This link between scenario building and strategy development is also confirmed by the literature.
Results and insights from scenarios and future workshops flow into strategy development and initiatives, referred to as strategic programme management and scenario transfer (business adaptation). Part of this process is to describe what the organisation should do in order to prepare for these futures, including initiatives and actions in the areas of culture, company structure and processes, technology and internal communication. An organisation can regard corporate strategy as a portfolio of initiatives, a portfolio fed by innovation and initiatives arising from a foresight process. Scenario transfer occurs when an organisation uses scenarios to identify possible business opportunities, to test or refine the company’s strategy based on its new understanding of what is required to succeed in a variety of possible futures, or to scan the environment for new or changing signals to determine whether further strategy change or adaptation is required. In the case organisation, the updated description of the enriched and validated scenarios, conclusions from the scenario workshops and the detailed analysis of consequences were created via the centralised corporate development team. The results of this process are tables with itemised descriptions of consequences for the industry and organisation if one of the scenarios becomes reality. This delivers a portfolio of new strategic alternatives which can be considered and allows the organisation to enrich its strategic plans. This portfolio of strategic alternatives and initiatives around opportunities and threats is the basis for an organisation’s strategic planning process (referred to as a strategic analysis document) which describes the scenarios and the supporting drivers (or signposts).
A successful future oriented and innovation driven organisation acknowledges that it requires a level of respect for future planning, particularly because an organisation is not in control of the future and does not have influence on all drivers of change. Scenario transfer is the connecting bridge enabling communication and application of foresight insights in business practice. This will ensure that consequences of future change and potential strategic alternatives and initiatives will be integrated in strategy development, innovation management, culture building and other company wide or functional business units (marketing, risk, finance etc.) initiatives. Again, it is recommended that workshops be held throughout the organisation to ensure a successful knowledge transfer. Scenarios should be enhanced and visualised via multimedia applications to increase the impact in the audience and trigger “foresight thinking”. This final step is to invite the whole organisation to participate in future thinking and stress test the organisation against current plans. In conversations within functional departments, operational consequences for market offer, processes, structure, capabilities and team culture should be defined, as well as possible solutions or responses. Action plans from these functional sessions should be communicated back to the centralised corporate development or foresight teams to further enrich the scenarios and the strategic programme management.
In the example of the organisation adopting a foresight framework, the outcomes from the application of the foresight process were either thoughts, additional ideas and input for the decision-making process, or concrete actions regarding cultural and organisational changes (for example, to improve the customer experience, to upgrade service levels in 600 branches and to simplify the product portfolio). Therefore, it is important to integrate foresight thinking in the strategy conversations on an ongoing basis, to ensure that whenever a new aspect with regard to (for example) customers, customer needs or new products would arise, references can be made to foresight and foresight insights (scenarios, drivers of change, consequences, strategic alternatives and initiatives). In the most basic sense, this is simply achieved by encouraging the open sharing of information with the whole organisation. In the case of the organisation adopting a foresight framework, scenario workshops and transfers resulted in a realisation that the organisation requires cultural change, simpler and fewer products, and more clarity in functional market strategies, to be successful in a potential new environment. In terms of culture building, evidence shows that the successful integration of foresight is based on the supporting values of the organisation, the methods applied and the degree of top-level management support. This will allow an uncontrolled, collaborative, forward looking and spontaneous approach to innovation. It means that the organisation is conceptually and culturally prepared for change and will minimise the time investments required to understand a future situation and thus decide on appropriate actions.
Practice Implications Derived through the Research
An important insight is that the implementation phase (strategic programme management and business strategy adaptation) must immediately follow scenario building and presentation. One case organisation experienced numerous strategic alternatives as a result of foresight, which have enriched future strategies and alternatives for the organisation and supported decision-making. In addition to the projects directly resulting from foresight, the process also helps to stimulate an innovative and proactive culture. In order to deliver value, senior management has to support foresight in terms of financial and internal resources, potentially change existing approval processes and acknowledge that future planning is not an exact science, so even if short-term success is not apparent, long-term benefits may still be reaped. From a cultural point of view, an element of risk taking is necessary to understand and foster the concept of corporate foresight. A report from these two foresight steps with the finalised scenarios and the detailed analysis of potential consequences will be created via the foresight or strategy teams. The results of this process are matrices with descriptions of consequences for the industry and the organisation if one of the scenarios becomes reality, outlines of future projects and response strategies and a list of core topics which need to be covered in the regular strategy development process. This scenario transfer is the point at which insights from signals management and scenarios are integrated into the formal strategy development process and the operational business units, marketing and product plans. It allows the organisation to formally prepare and present future oriented strategic projects for further growth and to create response strategies for environmental change. The workshops discussed help to ensure a successful knowledge transfer throughout the organisation. Scenarios should be communicated as multi-media presentations or movies to increase the impact in the audience and trigger “foresight thinking”.