Strategic Foresight – Understanding the Negative Future – Nu Leadership Series

“It is not how long you live that counts but what you do in your life that is important. You got to learn how to deal with the storms of life.”

Rev. Richard Brown, Jr.

Do we really want to pry into the future? Some people do not want to consider it. Clearly, the future is a highway with varying lanes, but do humans have the capacity to accept unhappy endings? In general, it is my position that humans are incapable of accepting unhappy endings. In fact, futurist Edward Cornish argues that it is easier for people to sustain a long-term perspective when they have a clear vision. Futurists utilize many techniques to anticipate the future. For example, strategic foresight can provide an avenue where organizations can strategically analyze short, mid-range, and long-term planning. Thus, it ‘s a glance into the future. This concept is easily seen on the Big Screen. Hollywood blockbusters are the chronology of happy endings. People want to believe that all stories have positive endings. This concept is derived from childlike innocence as Americans. Unfortunately, the future may include unpleasant outcomes.

However, life doesn’t always provide a nice story. For example, globalization can provide many job opportunities, but the outcome isn’t always positive. In fact, the future prediction for the full-time worker is bleak. It is evident that technology and outsourcing are now making the part-time worker a reality of today, not tomorrow. In fact, Charles Handy theorized that unemployed or spare workers will create their own new work in the future. Therefore, individuals will control their own destiny and become entrepreneurs. However, this runs counter to our American culture. Grandma taught us “go work for a good company and get a good job with benefits.”

In fact, Bruce Sterling, author of Tomorrow Now, further argues that simple, predictable, and solvable jobs will go to the poorly educated and unprepared or to intelligent machines. However, high-paying jobs will go to the highly prepared, teachable, and creative individuals. In the future, good jobs will be the apex of human difficulty. Technology and understanding of complex systems will require a well-grounded person. However, futurist James Canton argues that American youth, our future workers, will be unprepared in math/science and may be locked out of future opportunities.

Based on many observations, organizations and individuals don’t want to hear negative scenarios for future generations. This reality reaffirms that people don’t want to think negatively about their future. Therefore, they often operate in denial or ignore the future. Clearly, organizational leaders need to develop a strategy to deal with negative consequences. Many people don’t have the patience to look beyond short-term gains. Therefore, effective leaders need to know how to deal with the possibilities of negative futures.

References:

Canton, J. (2006). The Extreme Future. New York: Dutton.

Cornish, E. (2002). Futuring: The Exploration of the Future. Bethesda, MD: World Future Society.

Handy, C. (1997). The Age of Paradox. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Sterling, B. (2002). Tomorrow Now. New York: Random House Publishers.

© 2008 by Daryl D. Green

Marketing Audits, the Perfect Strategic Tool

Marketing audit, the missing link?

In order to survive in today’s highly unpredictable and competitive environment, business leaders cannot leave one stone unturned in their search for excellence! The marketing audit may just be the missing link!

A marketing audit is an invaluable instrument to help an organization to establish its unique competitive position and to identify its superior skills, resources and capabilities. This is a prerequisite for achieving a sustainable competitive advantage for your product, business unit and/or business.

Conducting a marketing audit is one of the best and most sensible decisions an entrepreneur and businessman (or -women!) can make.

What is a marketing audit?

Philip Kotler describes a marketing audit as a –

o comprehensive,

o systematic,

o independent, and

o periodic examination of an organization’s or business unit’s marketing environment, objectives, strategies, and activities with a view to identifying problem areas (and opportunities) and recommending a plan of action to improve the organization’s marketing performance.

The definition clearly confirms the strategic and operational relevance of a marketing audit, making it an indispensable research instrument – dissecting, analyzing, assessing, proposing, and advising.

About the audit process

The audit process should be thoroughly planned so that auditing time and cost are kept to a minimum, since carrying out a marketing audit can be quite expensive. It is usually done by highly skilled, experienced, and specialized marketing professionals. Kotler’s cardinal rule when conducting an audit is: “Do not rely solely on the organization’s managers for data and opinions. Employees, customers, retailers, agents, and other stakeholders must also be interviewed and be involved in the process.”

Asking the “right” questions is in actual fact the key to conducting a successful marketing audit. Questions unlock an individual’s or a group’s creative instincts and serve to stimulate the thought processes. If the right questions are asked in the right manner, refreshingly new marketing insights and ideas come to the fore.

The marketing audit also provides the auditor with a clearer picture of the organization’s marketing function and business environment. It will help him/her to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of an organization’s internal and external (marketing) environment.

Some final thoughts

Unlike a financial audit, a marketing audit has a strong dualistic character. On the one hand it has a scientific and structured side, and on the other hand it has a “chaos” side that invites and provokes intuitive, creative and “out-of-the-box” thinking.

I believe that the marketing audit process should encourage “out-of-the-box” thinking, since competitive advantage rarely comes from sameness. When businesses offer the same product and service to the same market by performing the same kind of activities no business will prosper in the long run. Information obtained from a thorough and skillfully conducted marketing audit will enable management to develop a market focused strategy that is directed by its unique capabilities, ensuring sustainable competitive advantage for their product, business unit and/or business.

Lastly, the marketing audit plays an important role in developing a (successful) strategic marketing plan. A well conducted marketing audit can provide corporate and marketing decision-makers with quality information that is relevant, practical and constructive. As a strategic instrument, the marketing audit is indispensable when developing a marketing strategy.

Important Facts about Strategic Planning

Every person has a goal; regardless of what areas of their lives it is being associated. A goal will remain a goal unless it was successfully achieved. Many would ask why some people are successful and some are not. Well, the answer lies on strategic planning.

Strategic planning is the process of developing strategies and defining objectives to reach a particular goal or set of goals. If you labeled your planning as “strategic” then you must expect that it would perfectly operate on a grand scale. It will achieve success in a broader field.

It is very different from “tactical” planning which focuses more on individual detailed tactics of activities. “Long range” planning however projects current programs and activities into a modified outlook of the outside world where it describes the phenomenon that will likely occur.

Strategic planning is creating more desirable results in the future through influencing the external world, and adapting current actions and programs to achieve a more favorable result in the outside environment.

There are different reasons why most people are doing strategic planning.

1. To acquire the capability in obtaining the desired objectives.

2. To fit well on both the organization’s core competencies and resources, and to the external world. Make sure that your plans are appropriate and feasible.

3. To acquire the capability in providing competitive advantage that is sustainable within the organization.

4. To prove that it is flexible, dynamic, and adaptable even to changeable situations.

5. To be sufficient in providing favorable results without cross-subsidization.

These advantages will not be realized without its methodologies. Strategic planning depends on STP (three-step process) process. “S” for situation where it was been thoroughly evaluated, “T” for Target where goals and objectives are defined, and “P” for path where the routes of goals and objectives are clearly mapped.

However another alternative approach can also be used. It is known as the Draw-See-Think-Plan procedures. “Draw” creates the desired image and achievements. “See” evaluates current situation and detects gaps between ideal situation and current situation. “Think” develops specific actions that must be done to bridge the gaps between ideal situation and current situation. “Plan” lists down required resources for the execution of activities.

Strategic planning is also considered a set of creative and logical steps.

1. It clarifies the objectives to be achieved. These objectives are ranked according to the level of its importance. It can either be TRO (Top Rank Objective), 2nd Rank Objective, 3rd Rank Objective and so on. The lower rank objectives answers the “How” question while higher rank objective answers the “why” question. However TRO is exempted because the objective here is defined.

2. It gathers and analyzes the information. It includes internal assessment on resources, and external assessment which include environmental scanning. Morphological analysis is used by both internal and external assessments. SWOT analysis can also be incorporated to assess the aspects of environments and organizations that are essential in achieving the strategic plan objectives.

3. It evaluates objective feasibility in the SWOT view. SWOT is the acronyms which stands fro Strengths, Opportunities, Weaknesses, and Threats.

4. It develops strategy involving SWOT.

5. It develops action programs creating a more attractive strategy.

To summarize everything, strategic planning provides overall strategic direction on the core management of the company. It gives a more specific direction in areas such as marketing strategy, financial strategy, human resource strategy, organizational development strategy, and deployment information technology strategy to achieve success.