Yesterday I got a newsletter from Spira Rekrytering (newsletter), founded by a friend of mine. Interestingly enough it contained short piece of advice from Magnus Lindqvist, a consultant in business intelligence and trend spotting.
Förr i tiden, nör organisationer hade långa och tröga beslutsprocesser (vilket, tyvörr, fortfarande vissa har) så var scenarioanalysen verktyget man arbetade med för att förutspå framtiden. Man fixerade det som i sin natur stöndigt föröndras för att kunna könna sig sökrare i sitt beslutsfattande. Idag har de flesta företag insett att de måste byta ut långa, tröga processer och beslut för ett mer dynamiskt, snabbrörligt sött att arbeta. Vi fattar beslut snabbare så att vi snabbare kan få resultat (och snabbare inse varför vi misslyckades så vi kan justera). Då passar scenarioanalysen mycket dåligt och istöllet måste vi arbeta med trendspaning, d.v.s. att löpande och kontinuerligt följa skeenden i vår omvörld och samla på oss artiklar, citat och insikter.
For you English speaking crowd I have a translation attempt below:
In the old days, when organizations had long and sluggish decision process (which, unfortunately, some still have) scenario analysis was the tool of choice to predict the future. You fixated what was in continuous change to feel more safe in your decision making. Today most companies have realized that they have to replace their long and sluggish decision processes in favor of more dynamic and agile way of working. We take decisions quicker so that we can get a quicker result (and a quicker insight in why we failed so we can adjust the course). Then scenario planning fits very badly and we must instead word with trend spotting, i e continuously follow the development in our business environment and collect articles, quotes and insights.
Reading this it is easy to believe that
- just because companies have decided to have shorter decision cycles, they succeed in that
- all important decisions have short term implications
- trend spotting is a replacement for scenario analysis (and other more long term tools)
I don't disagree at all with that many companies would benefit from shorter decision cycles and continuous trend spotting activities. The business landscape is today changing in such an unpredictable way that it is important that all parts of the organization are active in the business analysis process and to participate in the feedback and decision process.
First, all decisions does not just have short term implications! Think for instance on the decision to start a new business. Or deciding to invest in a new house or factory. These decisions still have to be managed the long and pretty sluggish way since they require participation of many people, capital and long term commitments.
OK, there are an increasing group of e g network knowledge companies that can avoid these kinds of decisions by just being fluid. Fair enough, but in countries like Sweden the companies that still is bringing home the bacon is not that kinds of companies at all. And probably not for some years to come.
But just because it is important with the short term perspective doesn't mean that the long term perspective is unimportant. I would argue rather the opposite, taking the long view in turbulent times is more important than ever! But maybe for somewhat different reasons than to make long term plans.
What is missed is the other roles scenario analysis have in the organizational intelligence process. Here are merely two of the, but I think these are pretty important.
- trend spotting just provides scattered information chunks which doesn't have any sensible meaning to your organization if it isn't fitted into a larger context - scenario analysis provides that analytical tool, that larger context, by which you could interpret, analyze and prioritize your trend observations so they provide any real world meaning
- when doing a scenario analysis, the participants are working together imagining a number of of synthesized possible futures, a process which part from the analytical values also have emotional values which today is recognized as vital to get both groups and individuals to actually change their perceptions, prioritations in order to increase their preparedness and value as trend spotters
In turbulent times it is the organizational ability to interpret and react in an intelligent and decisive way to changes that is the competitive edge, not just spot what is happening and react. I see that as the current most important role of scenario analysis.
So, Magnus I would suggest that you added some more of longer term pattern recognition in form of scenario planning as a analytical base for your trend spotting. Just a tip!
PS. I just remembered that I wrote something connected to this a short while ago and showed a sketch that maybe is valid here as well.