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Update: This post is adjusted since I attributed some of the answers to Guy Kawasaki and not Michel Raynor who actually answered the questions.

Today Art Hutchinson pointed me to Guy Kawasakis blog and the post on Michael Raynor's book The Strategy Paradox called How to Change the World: Ten Questions With Michael Raynor. It struck me as Kawasakis post set the light on a very good example on how to talk about strategy within it's own realm. E g taking little, if any, notice of the fundamental changes at lower levels which is what both changing the game radically, but also underpins the fundamental uncertainty today.

I started to get real interested when Raynor started to talk about the different levels:

The rest of the solution lies in calibrating the focus of each level of the hierarchy to the uncertainties it faces.

Yes, this sounds terrific! But then he ends at the middle manager level saying:

Managers should ask: How can we best execute on the commitments that have been made in order to achieve our performance targets? To put it on a bumper sticker, they have to “show us the money.” There are no strategic choices to make at this level, because the time horizons are too short—six to twenty-four months. Strategies simply can’t change that fast.

By the last sentence he is defining the whole game from a strategic level where the uncertainties are believed to come come from the outside the organisation which makes the lower levels strategically irrelevant. The point I was trying to make in my (to long) post Mind the gap a couple of days ago was that this exclusive view from top of "Mount Strategy" is a fundamental part of the problem. And even more so in the future. When Raynor refers to Stephen Wolfram saying:

First, any system must have boundaries that define it, since any system without boundaries would be the universe itself. Second, no system is entirely closed. Therefore, every system is subject to exogenous, and necessarily unpredictable, shocks that introduce randomness into the system.

he is right! But Raynor misinterpret what this means. The shocks that introduce randomness into the system can also come from what is thought to be the conceptual foundation for the strategic level of thinking. Strategic thinking is actually constituted by and dependent on the work at the lowest level. In this sense the strategic world could be a separate system not just from the outside world, but also from the lower levels on which depends and claims to include.

Yes, I agree with Art's post, that

A need for divergent scenarios that empower management teams to think systemically across and around boundaries--recognizing but not being hemmed in by them [my emphasis]. The goal: strategic resilience whatever may come.

But to do that you have to cross the gap and embrace both levels to do a good job.

Wow!!

For me being a complex and visual thinker it was really amazing to find a site which collects so many visualization techniques in one page. I see it as a really valuable tool when working with scenario planning project are looking for ways to present the data to explain the relation behind driving forces to back up your scenarios.

Look for yourself at: http://www.visual-literacy.org/periodic_table/periodic_table.html

Thank you FutureHIT / post

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After reflecting a while about Jamais' idea about open source scenario planning and after reading Art Hutchinson's comments about some difficulties I thought I should add some of my reflections about problems an open source approach could face.

After having teached scenario planning for several years, as well as being involved in several scenario projects on different levels I had problems accounting for the different levels of quality in the results. It is no secret that scenario planning is an art and not a method, which of course have something to do with it. What I see almost every day is that in overall young students have problems grasping and formulating driving forces, uncertainties and possible chains of events of some quality. What comes out are scattered sentences which doesn't seem to connect to each other. The ability to reason on that level of abstraction, time-span or uncertainty doesn't seem to be present.

After having delved into Elliott Jaques theories of time-span capacity and how people are able to manage uncertainty and levels of abstraction I have found a tool for analysing this (there are many, many references but the article "Are you big enough for your job? Is your job big enough for you?" by Judith McMorland is pretty new).

What I find is that people with a certain level of capacity (level IV and above) are in general capable of talking about abstract and uncertain chains of events in a intelligible way. At lower levels people in general can understand and appreciate the result of a scenario process, but are seldom able to construct them with any consistance or quality.

Why does this theory apply to this approach and not say open source software development? Probably because when constructing something "mechanical" you can test things and see if they work. Different individuals can provide the project with their own code, but the test comes if the code works or are being better than before. What we don't see in open source processes is which individuals are being ignored or all the code that don't match the quality level and thus is being replaced by others. The working code is a brutal fitness test which effectively filters out the crap.

In an open source scenario process such a filter is not possible and most of the crap will quickly hide all the goodies.

As creative as ever, Jamais Cascio are following the Open Source line of thinking and applies it to the concept of scenario planning. (And refers to my humble page and scribblings about scenario planning along the way...)

Really intriguing idea for a collective open source scenario generating process. Read about the idea at The WorldChanging site

I could already see how discussions around a set of influence diagrams could help focusing around what seems to be predetermined or critical uncertainties.

It would be very interesting to be a part of something like this on a global scale!

What will the technology future look like for Northeast Ohio in 2020? NorTech the Northeast Ohio Technology Coalition, have, together with GBN organized an ambitious regional scenario project.

Read about the project in Sys-Con Media article

Over 130 leaders within technology and innovation were invited to a large-scale workshop. This lead to a number of strategic planning workshops, the TechFutures website with the resulting scenarios and a blog.

The critical uncertainties in the resulting scenarios are:

  • What impact will technology and business innovation (world-wide) have on Northeast Ohio during the next ten years? Will we see a technology and business environment characterized by rapid, radical, disruptive change in technologies, competitors, or business models? Or will change happen more incrementally, with business models, technologies and new competitors emerging in a steadier, more recognizable fashion?
  • What kind of leadership will we have during this period? Will our regional, civic, and economic leadership come mostly from established, traditional, top-down figures and organizations, or will the next ten years see regional, civic, and economic leadership emerging from more surprising, distributed, non-traditional “bottom-up” sources?

Scenarioplanering handlar om att skilja på de osökerheter man har framför sig och de sökra utvecklingslinjer man har. Utgående från de osökra dimensionerna spönner man sedan ut scenarier som då blir skisser av flera framtida utvecklingslinjer. Körnan i scenarioarbetet brukar sögas vara att man identifierar de kritiska osökerheterna. Shell som ör pionjörer i scenarioarbete har på senare tid tagit tönkandet ett steg till. Istöllet för osökerheter har man börjat fokusera på den sökra utveckling i omvörlden företaget faktiskt måste agera utifrån. Det ör inte sökert att denna sökra utveckling uppfattas så av alla vilket gör det hela ön viktigare. Man har givit dessa sökerheter det korta namnet TINA som står för There Is No Alternative to... vilket understryker vikten av att förstå dem i både sin lång och kortsiktiga verksamhet.

Fast Company | There Is No Alternative to ...

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