Published on July 18, 2009
Strategic Thinking: what it is and how to do it Strategic Thinking and Planning for Tertiary Education ATEM NSW/ACT Maree Conway July 2009
1978-1980 casual jobs as a student, Graduate Clerk 1984-1986 Volunteer at School of Humanities University YWCA, Berkeley 1980-1981 •La Trobe Academic 1986-1989 Student Admin Services Officer at Chisholm Board Secretariat Institute of Technology, then Student Administration Manager, •Government Information Unit, Monash, Caulfield AND Secondment as School Executive Commonwealth Govt Officer, School of Physics at La Trobe 1988 1990-2004 (i) Faculty Assistant Registrar Business, (ii) Divisional Manager, Arts, Humanities & 1981-84 Student Records Officer, Soc. Sci. (iii) Divisional Manager, Policy Footscray College of TAFE and Planning, (iv) Director, Foresight and Planning, and (v) Director, Foresight, Planning and Review 2005-2007 General Manager, Quality, Information and Planning
2007….integrating long term thinking into strategy development, using futures approaches
Integral Leadership Framework Interior Exterior Leadership Reflective Practice Individual Collective Good Ancestory Strategic Thinking Based on the work of Ken Wilber
Strategic Thinking Generating Options Options What might happen? Strategic Decision Making Making choices Decisions What will we do? Strategic Planning Taking Action Actions How will we do it?
Long term Uncertain Divergent Incomplete Beyond linear Disrupting alignment
Short term Logical Convergent Pragmatic Deductive Alignment
Strategic Thinking • Integrating the future into your decision making processes today by thinking big, deep and long.
• Big – do we understand how we connect and interact with other organisations and the external environment, both local and global?
• Deep – how deeply are we questioning our ways of operating? • Do we operate from our interpretation of the past, or our anticipation of the future? • Are our assumptions today valid into the future?
• Long – how far into the future are we looking? Do we understand the shape of alternative futures for our organisation?
Thinking Big: Thinking in Systems
Thinking Big: Systems Thinking • Leaders need to learn to see the larger systems of which they are a part. • Shifts focus from optimising their piece of the puzzle to building shared understanding and larger vision. Peter Senge, The Necessary Revolution, 2008
Thinking Big: Systems Thinking • Forces your attention on: – the external environment to understand the impact of change, – connections and interdependencies, – aligning internal capacity with reality of a constantly changing external environment, – identifying strategy that will ensure viability of your organisations into the future.
Worldview • What might seem real to you probably won’t seem as real to the next person. – not right, not wrong, just is. • How you filter information (your lens) to create meaning is critical to understand. • Underpins our assumptions about what is real and what is not.
Our assumptions encase us in the past.
Assumption 1: It’s impossible.
Assumption 2: I’m too busy.
Assumption 3: It’s irrelevant.
You will know when to test assumptions when the pain of continuing with ‘business-as-usual’ is greater than the fear of challenging yourself and others.
Thinking Long: Environmental Scanning
In education… • Creating graduates for jobs that don’t exist, using technology that hasn’t been invented, to solve problems that we don’t know about yet. • Must understand the shape of this world to be able to lead towards it.
The External Environment Wil dca Globalisation rd Global Technology Wil Demographics & dca Wil generational change rd dca Industry Educational rd Gaming Learning Lifestyle Online Environment Organisation Sustainability Engagement Values Vocational Funding Wil Imperative dca Economy rd Politics
UNCERTAINTY High Usual Planning Timeframe (3-5 years) The linear future is the one we believe to be true, usually based on untested assumptions Trend Linear Future Low Today TIME Future
UNCERTAINTY High Usual Planning Timeframe (3-5 years) Possible Futures Trend Linear Future Low Today TIME Future
UNCERTAINTY And…don’t forget the wildcard… High Usual Planning Timeframe (3-5 years) Possible Futures Trend Linear Future Low Today TIME Future
Trends Whatever takes you away The weird and from conventional thinking… unimaginable Emerging Issues
Scan: know earlier • Scan actively • Scan in strange places • Scan for diversity of perspectives (not right, not wrong, just is)
• Look for connections, collisions and intersections.
Scan: know together • Collective wisdom. • Record and share scanning ‘hits. • Gather regularly to explore. • Get your whole organisation thinking. • Do it often, not once.
• Strategic thinking is identifying, imagining and understanding possible and plausible future operating environments for your organisation…
…and using that knowledge to expand your thinking about your potential future options…
…about how to position your organisation effectively in the external environment,
…in order to make better informed decisions about action to take today.
Putting it all together: What might be… and what can we do about it today?
There are no future facts
Types of Futures “Wildcard” Possible Scenario Plausible Probable Preferable Today Time Futures Cone developed by Clem Bezold
• What will be the shape of the future? • What will be important? • What will be peripheral? • What does it mean for us?
• The future might be unknowable, but you can understand a lot about what will influence the future.
The impact of global trends...
…and of government policy
Competing for talent Skilling, re-skilling, up-skilling Flexibility Relationships
Global 2.0 is here…understanding and engaging with an array of cultures…
Diversity of workforce and student population increasing
...student choice and time, place and pace of learning
…how will we learn?
SNACK CULTURE Deconstructing products - smaller, faster, cheaper
Is the singularity real? Photo: http://www.cyberpunkreview.com
How will automation affect our work?
3D PRINTING Moving to personalised production www.ponoko.com www.shapeways.com
The way we do business is changing.
…and we need to demonstrate our ‘green’ credentials
Implications • Students – how will they learn, what will their experience look like? What will they expect? • Staff – how will you work, what will a day look like for you? What will you expect of your employer? • The organisation – how will it have changed? How will it have stayed the same? • Learning – what will it mean (structure, delivery, assessment, recognition)? • Industry – what will it look like? How will people work? What skills might be needed?
Your turn… • Focus: critical issue/decision today • Scan: two trends likely to affect your decision into the future (think uncertainty not predictability) • Interpret: think about how these trends might play out over the next 10 years • Imagine: how your organisation look like in 10 years – image/metaphor/book or movie title • Decision: – implications/options for your decision today. What will be the same, what might you do differently?
Why do it this way? • Beyond the short-term • Beyond busy • “We want to be proactive…” • But, you can’t be proactive unless you have spent time thinking about how you might react to events that have not yet happened.
Unless you take the time to think strategically, you will always be in crisis management mode and always putting out bushfires.
Reactive Futures – assumes linear future
Proactive futures – assumes uncertainty
• Let’s think about how to focus our organisations on the future.
Reactive Futures Proactive Futures What has happened? What is happening? What caused it to happen? What is driving the trends that will influence our future? What are our alternative futures? How do we respond? What ought we do today? What would be the long term consequences of our actions today? What will we do now? What will we do now? After the event Anticipating the event
Recognise the blinders • Mental filters (patterned responses) • Overconfidence (far too certain) • Penchant for confirming rather than disconfirming evidence (we miss things) • Dislike for ambiguity (want certainty) • Group think (Abilene effect) PJH Schoemaker and GS Day Driving through the Fog, Long Range Planning 37 (2003): 127-142
It’s about changing the way you think… • Moving beyond pattern response and habitual thinking that no longer works well when uncertainty is dominant. • Re-training our brains to make new connections and generate new ideas. • Moving our brains from automatic pilot to manual steering.
We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
• What assumptions that underpin how you think about your work now will need to change?
A Challenge: Beyond Busy
• The pressures of his job drive the manager to be superficial in his actions - to overload himself with work, encourage interruption, respond quickly to every stimulus, seek the tangible and avoid the abstract, makes decisions in small increments, and do everything abruptly. Henry Mintzberg The Manager’s Job: Folklore or Fact, HBR, 1975
• “Managers who get caught in the trap of overwhelming demands become prisoners of routine. They do not have time to notice opportunities. Their habituated work prevents them from taking the first necessary step toward harnessing willpower: developing the capacity to dream an idea into existence and transforming it into a concrete existence.” Heike Bruch & Sumantra Ghoshal, A Bias for Action: How Effective Managers Harness Their Willpower, Achieve Results, and Stop Wasting Time, HBSP, 2004
The Result? Our organisations will tend to be purposeless wastelands, populated by the perpetually busy and the inherently unhappy. Stephen Johnson, What do you do for a living?, 2007
• I’m too busy dealing with today to think about the future… actually means… • I can only think short term. I don’t have time to think strategically.
• A futures thinking approach may mitigate against falling into the trap of being caught reacting to the day to day, where the urgent drives out the important, where the futures goes unexplored and the capacity to act, rather than the capacity to think and imagine, becomes the sole measure for leadership. Brent Davies Leading the Strategically Focused School: Success and Sustainability (2006)
If you succumb to the busyness syndrome, this is how you approach the future.
To think strategically, you have to move beyond busy.
Characteristics of Strategic Thinkers
Think outside the box…
Think outrageously at times…
Curious… Explore, learn, reflect
Optimistic about creating the future…
Aware of own worldview…
…and, seek and foster collective wisdom
Back to Work
• Strategic thinking is thinking about the future. • As leaders in organisations, your responsibility is to influence others to understand the imperative of the future.
The imperative of the future • That a sustainable way of life for us as individuals, for our organisations, our societies and our planet is possible only if we integrate the future into our decision making today.
The imperative of the future We focus on immediate needs and problems and are trapped by this illusion that what is most tangible is most real. We've been conditioned for thousands of years to identify with our family, our tribe, and our local social structures. A future that asks us to overcome this condition and identify with all of humankind looks alien indeed...we've never before lived in a world in which one's actions, through global business, can have their primary consequence of the other side of the world. Peter Senge Creating Desired Futures in a Global Community, SOL, 2003
And, just how do I do this in real life?
It’s a challenge!
The gap between reactive and proactive strategy is bridged by making time for strategic thinking.
Individual Strategic Foresight Foresight Individuals recognise and build their foresight capacity unconscious conscious Individuals begin to talk about and use futures approaches in their work implicit explicit Collective individual capacities generate organisational capacity solitary (structures & processes) collective
YOU Interior Exterior Reflective Practice Leadership Commit to building time to Make a change in your routine do this daily – stop doing when you go back to work. something else if you Individual have to Collective Good Ancestory Strategic Thinking Recognise the impact of Whenever you have to make decisions today for future a decision, ask: “Am I generations thinking, big, deep and long?” Based on the work of Ken Wilber
YOU AS A Interior Exterior LEADER Leadership Reflective Practice Build a scanning system to Encourage and support inform decision making – and an outward looking staff pay attention to it Individual Collective Good Ancestory Strategic Thinking Create a futures focused Have thinking workshops as decision making culture well as planning workshops Based on the work of Ken Wilber
Make space to think
“Strategic thinking can be colloquially defined as "acting in the present with a clear sense of the future"- a sense of what the future environment might be, and a vision of what you want the future organization to be. No aspect of cultural change is more important than focusing organizational values and behavior on the future.” http://horizon.unc.edu/projects/seminars/futurizing/focusing.html
How do you know when? • Strategy framework defined by tomorrow’s strategic issues rather than today’s operations. • Strategic thinking capabilities are widespread in the organisation (not just senior executives). • Process for negotiating trade-offs is in place. • Performance review system focuses managers on key strategic issues. • Reward system and values promote and support the exercise of strategic thinking. Adapted from Thinking Strategically, McKinsey Quarterly, June 2000
• The aim is to understand - as best we can - the long term context of our decisions today, so that we make those decisions as wise and as robust as is possible today.
Maree Conway Thinking Futures http://www.thinkingfutures.net http://futuresthink.blogspot.com email@example.com Photos from fotolia.com and istockphoto.com
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