An organisation’s processes and systems are based on historical requirements. Requirements change but the organisation’s processes and systems change more slowly and reactively. Consequently there is always a time lag, often long, between the changed requirements and what is done to meet them. Attempting to improve what exists and how things currently work means continually playing catch-up. Furthermore, change of what exists is always incremental, never transformational, because the complexity and proximity of what is happening now removes perspective and inhibits imagination of what could be.
It is impossible to predict the future fully, and the satisfaction of today’s demands has to take precedence. The pressures of the competitive environment mean that often we are reactionary, responding to the symptoms of a problem rather than an underlying cause The situation is exacerbated in a volatile and threatening environment. Despite the difficulty, such an environment requires an attempt to anticipate the opportunities and threats which will appear in future because cost-cutting is an unsustainable response.
Most organisations have given thought to the future, but sometimes this thinking is vague and has little effect on operations or behaviours. Other organisations are content with continual improvement, or with repeating tomorrow what they did yesterday. A few, such as Alphabet, Amazon and Apple, make tomorrow come today. More organisations could emulate these companies by taking time to think about the future and their place in it.
The biggest dangers to an organisation are the ones they don’t see coming. Understanding these threats – and anticipating opportunities – requires peripheral vision. The Scanning the periphery questionnaire helps an organisation’s leaders to assess their ability and propensity to think beyond current organisational and temporal boundaries.
Future-proofing then improves peripheral vision by answering the questions:
- What will the world be like in future, in general?
- What will the consequences of this scenario be for the organisation?
- How should the organisation prepare for this world?
from the perspectives of the natural and economic environment, the customer segments and value propositions, the core business processes and value chain, and the learning and growth enablers.
We call the answers to these questions a Future-Proofing Benchmark because they are a way of comparing an organisation with what it needs to become, instead of comparing itself with the present situation.
The more specific an organisation’s definition of its future, the more likely it is to realise it.
Strategic outcomes are derived from the Benchmark, and displayed in a strategy & risk map.