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Tom Devane is a consultant, author, and co-author of provocative bestselling books on achieving extraordinary results using methods that systematically engage people in organizations and communities.
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    « Tap Into the Engagement Advantage | Main | The Value of Not Knowing... IF You Want a High-Performance Organization – Part 2 »
    Thursday
    Sep292011

    The Value of Not Knowing... IF You Want a High-Performance Organization – Part 1

    Strategy Development

    In this series of three blogs we address critical business areas where that pesky issue of uncertainty raises its ugly head and screams for a specific action inside organizations.  Each blog will contain a vignette that illustrates how high-performing organizations view, and address the ever-present phenomenon of uncertainty.  This first blog talks about strategic planning, the second addresses critical decisions, and the third covers external consultants, as well as draws some common conclusions.

    A large software developer that I worked with to develop a strategy for a new business unit wanted to develop the best strategy for the fledging unit.  But one huge issue they recognized was how fast their market could change, thus making their going-in assumptions and resultant strategy irrelevant.  So, during the middle of an intensive 2 ½ day strategy building session, they took time to develop four scenarios of what the world who consumed their products could like over the next five years. 

    This exercise wasn’t performed merely to rank the most likely to least likely, as that also would have demonstrated some organizational hubris that suggested the company might know what would happen.  Instead, the four scenarios merely told alternative stories about how the world and the rapidly-changing software industry might evolve.  It then became the task of those in the session to determine in which scenario(s) they wanted to place strategic bets, and to craft what those bets would look like (along with accompanying goals to set direction and measure progress).

    This scenario planning process, popularized by Shell years ago, acknowledges that no one can really predict with 100% accuracy what the future will be.  So it’s best to have options for different world stories that unfold.   High-performance organizations understand this concept, and use it to get ahead of the competition.

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