Strategy and Uncertainty

Strategic planning engages our expectations of a future state. We set out our desires, hopes, goals, plans, benchmarks and time-lines, and formulate a strategy for implementing them.

Several significant challenges come along for the ride: the future – while forecast-able to some degree – is uncertain in important ways; the past shapes our expectations, sometimes without our knowing it; and the present circumstances are often presumed – that is, we think we know what our current opportunities and problems are, but often haven’t thought deeply enough about them to really understand.

When organizations engage in strategic processes, whether through annual planning, or individual initiatives and projects, these challenges can often be swept aside. We want a good solid plan, and spend less time thinking about our thinking (which we can have some certainty about), and more time planning the future (which will always contain a hefty does of the uncertain).

One way to respond to this dilemma is by engaging in a deliberate process such as Creative Problem Solving. I’ve used CPS for strategic planning in one-on-one sessions, and in multi-client, multi-year planning retreats. The results are always the same: CPS clarifies thinking. The stages of the CPS process conform perfectly to the different stages of a strategic process, from deeply understanding the current situation, to generating ideas for moving toward identified goals, to planning and execution.

A not-incidental benefit, of course, is that CPS also improves creative thinking in open-ended, ambiguous situations. And the future, being what it is, fits that description to a tee.

(If you’re in the Seattle area, and interested in digging deeper, I’ll be holding a seminar on CPS and Strategic Planning later this month.)

photo credit by Shiny Things

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