This is the third article in a four-part series regarding what strategic foresight can do for you. This addresses the issues of change management and values. Previously posts discussed innovation and strategy.
What is the underlying value system in your organization? What does your Board of Directors hold dear? Perhaps you and your team have worked on putting together a statement of values that guide and dictate your actions. Every corporate or organizational ecosystem has a set of values that are relied upon consciously or subconsciously and this reliance drives the ecosystem forward (or not). An ecosystem that has a value system that has a faulty set of values, one that regresses rather than evolves will eventually disappear. When the values of a team are not upheld then the team wither and dies.
I have always worked to develop a stated set of values for the team I work with. In our organization, we have a set of values for the overall organization at the Board level and one we have developed for the team. Some organizational theorists might see that as conflicting, but I have found that it works in a practical sense. More importantly, working through a morning or afternoon with your team to develop those values is important and gives everyone a sense of ownership and buy-in.
However, a value system created using traditional planning methods really doesn’t account for the fast pace of life and business today. Today’s values take into account the feelings, thoughts and desires of those present and accounted for. It does not take into account future changes to the organization brought upon it by the outside, such as those generated by social, technological, economic, environmental, and political forces.
Author and management consultant Patrick Lencioni says in a Harvard Business Review Article: “But coming up with strong values—and sticking to them—requires real guts. Indeed, an organization considering a values initiative must first come to terms with the fact that, when properly practiced, values inflict pain. They make some employees feel like outcasts. They limit an organization’s strategic and operational freedom and constrain the behavior of its people. They leave executives open to heavy criticism for even minor violations. And they demand constant vigilance.”
The last line of this quote is where strategic foresight can have an impact. The web is filled with all types of guides on how to create and generate a values culture in your organization but connecting them to what could happen is missing. How does one achieve “constant vigilance” over the organizations value system?
A process that can identify trends, turn them into identifiable patterns and create scenarios will prepare a company to identify the core values they have, need and want as the move ever so cautiously into the future. The Kedge Futures school says, “Foresight trains you pay attention to underlying value systems, to navigate unspoken assumptions and biases, and to identify latent connections between seemingly disparate issues. You can use these new insights to overcome tricky company culture roadblocks and achieve long lasting change.”
Anne Loehr has outlined several steps that an organization can take to identify their culture. They are pretty simple, and they include:
- Assess your current organizational culture.
- Review our strategic business plan.
- Determine the culture needed to achieve your plan.
- Decide if your values need to shift.
- Define what your chosen values really mean.
- Incorporate these values into organizational processes.
Incorporated into these simple six steps can be a wide variety of exercises and tools that will give insight into the future and result in a culture that can not only recognize shifting patterns but actually account for the way they may impact your organization and your culture.
Step number 3 in particular would lend itself to a strategic foresight process that can bring about substantive and important value identification. To “determine the culture you need to achieve your plan,” looks like easy enough, but may be wrought with pitfalls and issues that could destroy your simple values identification process. How can one determine the “culture needed (for the future) to achieve your plan” without some trend spotting, pattern identification and scenario building? This would be a perfect place to incorporate strategic foresight.
Strategic Foresight can be part of the values identification process(step #1), the values shift process (step #4), and the incorporation of your core values into your organization (Step #6). With the volatile, uncertain, chaotic and ambiguous world, we live in today, change management and values identification can be more readily achieved.