Consulting

Why use foresight to create a strategy?

Foresight is the use of future thinking to inform decision making today. Scenarios – qualitatively (not just quantitatively) different futures – are a way of provoking clients to think about the future, about new strategic options and about the robustness of the strategy in these scenarios.  The strategy adopted provides a client with a heuristic to judge if an activity should be prioritised, and creates space for ‘probes’ – safe to fail experiments undertaken by the client to test new ideas and approaches.

What can 4Sing offer?

At 4Sing, we offer an end-to-end process which allows the client to gain insight into current and up-coming challenges and then to decide on a strategy for their organisation. The process itself includes interviews with managers and other relevant individuals (e.g. staff, market experts, customers and suppliers), as well as a couple of workshops. The focus of the first workshop is on goals, key decisions and scenarios: i.e. how that part of the outside world (which has an impact on the client) could change in the future. Then the focus shifts to the strategic options available, judging which options are robust whatever scenario may come to pass, and agreeing on an implementation process.

Why engage in a multi-stakeholder strategy?

Lateral leadership is a key challenge in both the public and private sector today. Governments cannot simply decree for something to happen and expect that other stakeholders will do as told, and managers cannot expect departments reporting to other hierarchies will simply follow their instructions. Hence the importance of developing the key points of a strategy together, accross hierarchies and organisations This generates a buy-in, and substantially increases the likihood of other stakeholders implementing it.

What can 4Sing offer?

At 4Sing, we use inter-active workshops and software-supported processes to guide a group of stakeholders through a series of steps, including: identification of key decision; agreement on the alternative options when taking the key decisions; clarification of the goals of the strategy; testing which strategic option best meets the goals set; agreement on which strategic path is best; identification of the steps needed for implementation and the milestones to measure implementation.

Investment Climate in Minsk

I feared cold when headed to Minsk, Belarus, but it was surprisingly warm for December. The workshop’s participants engaged quickly and were not disturbed by a rather unconventional workshop-concept: Instead of presenting and discussing in plenary all the time, the client opted for an interactive format where we focused the discussions in small diverse groups. […]

multi-stakeholder

Migration Innovation in Uganda

Travelling to East/ Central Africa always comes with surprises. As for example that Ruanda’s plastic ban is really enforced. When the plane held in Kigali for a stop-over, the personnel reminded the deboarding passengers that it was strictly illegal to bring any sort of plastic bag into the country. From a European point of view, […]

multi-stakeholder

Why conduct a wargame?

Wargames allow our clients to understand better why other stakeholders in their environment behave as they do, to see the constraints and options the others face and consequently to “live through the future in advance”, by seeing how others will react to our clients moves. Clients have used this technique to understand likely competitor plans, anticipate how suppliers will react when faced with new demands from the client, and to prepare for commercial and legal negotiations with a partner.

What can 4sing offer?

At 4Sing, we examine and help to deepen or broaden this business intelligence available regarding the stakeholders that are to be role-played through a series of interviews and own research. In a workshop (usually 2 days, but that depends on the number of participants and level of ambition), the client team then deepens its understanding of these stakeholders, and identifies their likely constraints and strategy. The client can then test how these other stakeholders may react to any given strategic move by the client, and can adjust their plans, or devise counter-measures, in consequence.

Role-Playing Competitors

Just been helping a client to role-play a major competitor, and consequently refine their strategy.  A number of interesting insights emerged – a combination of bringing many perspectives together, and breathing life into the business intelligence already gathered. Particularly of note though, was that the existing strategy (which we already developed with the client two […]

wargames

A Retreat in Georgia

Together with four of my colleagues am busy running a retreat for the 60 staff of Enterprise Georgia in Kachreti, a major wine producing region in the country.  An enjoyable mixture of role-playing stakeholders, developing strategy and fantastic countryside!

multi-stakeholder, wargames

Why create a vision?

A vision is a means of communicating where an organisation wishes to be in a given future period of time. It provides everybody with a clear sense of direction, something that is important, when the terrain is complex or a new business/business model is being tried out. If crafted well, the vision also inspires and motivates staff, and for some it can be part of a “Theory of Change”, explaining how the activities undertaken will lead to the outside world changing in a particular, desired, way.

What can 4sing offer?

At 4Sing, we help the client develop a vision that is co-created by selected staff. The process usually includes interviews with key personnel, the use of participatory survey tools and instruments, as well as one or two workshops in which the selected colleagues work through their own views and the inputs received from the interviews and surveys. The workshops focus on identifying key likely changes in the business environment, and translating the management’s understanding of where it would like to be into a visual and descriptive vision of where the company wishes to arrive at. If desired, a Theory of Change, a mission statement and goals can be developed as well.

Why have peer-to-peer knowledge sharing networks?

Organisations have lots of information at their disposal, and their staff usually know a lot about changes in the operational environment – and what works or does not work in that environment. But the sheer size and geographic spread of organisations often makes it difficult for organisations to share insights in a timely manner. Hence, so as to receive early warnings of problems/opportunities from the ground, and to share best practices, it is useful to create knowledge-sharing networks. Peer-to-peer learning can also be used to share best practices (and mistakes) between organisations, at national and international level

What can 4sing offer?

At 4Sing, we help clients design and implement structures for knowledge sharing. The details will vary from case-to-case, but some basic principles usually apply. First the personal incentives of those involved must be aligned with the principle of knowledge sharing if it is to succeed. Secondly, the timing is crucial, as knowledge is needed at particular moments in project cycles and strategy formulation, but will not be valued at other moments. Thirdly, the process of knowledge sharing must be made as easy to use as possible, implying short inputs in bite sized chunks that are tailored to the problem at hand. We help design different methods that respect these principles, ranging from on-line games, through crowd-sourced options, development of communities of practice, up to workshops, case studies and more tailored bite-sized reports.

Knowledge Sharing in the Snow

Just completed a short workshop that was a mixture of knowledge sharing, project planning and organisational development. In a short day, the dozen participants were able to identify the similarities and differences between what they were doing in four countries, and to agree on the mechanisms for keeping up an exchange of knowledge on contents […]

knowledge

Knowledge Sharing on Nutrition, Cotonou

A week in Cotonou Benin runing a knowledge sharing event in French and English, with 70 participants based in 12 African and Asian countries focused on food and nutritional security. C’était merveilleux de voir comment les participants de différents pays et continents ont réussi – malgré les barrières linguistiques – d’apprendre les uns des autres. […]

knowledge

Coaching

Why be coached when implementing the strategy?

The rule of thumb is that the urgent will take priority over the important. Implementing a new strategy is of vital importance, but does not always appear so urgent. The risk is therefore that it is agreed upon, but that implementation is patchy. Hence as in a football match, it can be useful to have a trainer available who is not actually involved in the operational tasks, but who can give tips and hints on what to do to the players involved – from the CEO or General Director downwards.

What can 4sing offer?

At 4Sing, we sit with the management to identify the implementation path at the end of any strategy formulation processes. As a result, there are a clear set of steps/projects to be implemented, and usually also some “probes” (safe to fail experiments which test out new ideas in practice). We then coach key individuals, or a management team collectively, and our presence, at regular intervals, gives them a reason to check if the steps/projects/probes are being executed or should be modified. We also help them to identify any change management processes that should be introduced to ensure the strategy beds-down.

Keeping tabs on strategy implementation

Just completed a fourth workshop in two years, following up on a strategy decided in 2017. Each workshop has allowed the client to check up on how far the strategy has been implemented, as well as to check what other issues have arisen in the meantime. It is fascinating to see the progress made, and […]

implementation

Why create in-house capacity in tools and methods?

Whilst consultants can help on major projects, there may be a multiplicity of decisions at a client organisation that would benefit from use of tools and methods, and where it makes little sense to have recourse to outsiders from a financial, knowledge retention and security/political sensitivity point of view. Hence the importance of empowering the organisation’s own staff in such methods and tools, to making them part of the DNA of the organisation.

What can 4sing offer?

At 4Sing, we have used digital tools in strategy processes, notably the Parmenides EIDOS™ tool suite, for twenty years now, and we are constantly experimenting with new tools and methods to identify when they are best used, and under what conditions they provide most benefit to a clients. As a result, we are often asked to help clients develop templates for decision making workflows using such tools and methods, so as to spread best practice across organisations. We help identify the processes, methods and tools that an organisation needs, as well as training the colleagues who will provide these services in-house or who will train others in this (“train the trainer”). In addition, we backstop/coach the needs of these colleagues and help create best practice manuals if desired.

Atelier de construction de scénarios prospectifs, Paris

De nouveau à Paris, en l’occurrence afin donner une perspective supplémentaire aux participants lors de la formation « Atelier de construction de scénarios prospectifs » de Futuribles. Merci à François de Jouvenel, Cécile Désaunay, et Corinne Roëls pour l’invitation. Comme toujours, beaucoup de personnes à rencontrer (merci à Marie-Hélène Caillol, Joshua Polchar, et Jean-Robert Bornand […]

foresight, tools

Why place our consultants with a client?

Staffing constraints and the constant demands of operational matters can make it hard to give the attention that is needed to a strategy or strategic project. Having an outside organisation provide extra resources for the critical moments in a project’s life can therefore make the difference between success and failure. As we are often involved in developing such strategic projects, 4Sing’s staff are well positioned to help out by working in the client’s office for a short spell.

What can 4sing offer?

At 4Sing, we offer to place our consultants with a client for up to six months, to help implement a strategic project. Often this is in the start-up phase of a new project, and hence the role often includes executing an already designed implementation plan, or in the absence of that, detailing an implementation plan (taking into consideration other stakeholders interests) and ensuring that existing or new personnel from the client organisation gradually take over responsibility for the project. Hence there is a gradual shift from working on the project itself, to empowering, training and coaching the client’s staff.

Events

Why have a lively event?

No matter how important those participating and interesting the contents, the success of an event depends on its format and the energy is in the room. In the absence of these, participants will not genuinely internalise and still less use the knowledge made available. Hence the importance of taking an outsider who has great experience of making events special, of structuring them in an interactive and interesting way, and who can facilitate/moderate/animate the event with the requisite energy.

What can 4sing offer?

At 4Sing, we assist clients with conferences, seminars, panels, and retreats of all shapes and sizes. Before the event starts, we help the client identify the goals, engage with key outsiders (e.g. speakers), and prepare an annotated agenda outlining who does what, when. During the event, we provide one or multiple moderaters, and electronic platforms (e.g. Wisembly) for participants to interact with speakers and each other. After the event, 4Sing summarises the key findings in a document, E-Book or other format. In each case, the event will be tailor made to the clients requirements, and are happy to work with outside agencies that deal with the logistical side of an event.

Growing awareness of Foresight, OECD, Paris

The Annual Meeting of the OECD Government Foresight Community (GFC) in Paris, 7-8 October, was again a high point for those following the future of governance and strategic foresight. Thanks to Strategic Foresight Counsellor Duncan Cass-Beggs and his excellent team, the Community is growing, with great presentations by Futurists, governments using foresight, researchers and practitioners […]

events, foresight

A conference in Kiev

The local lore claims that St Andrew planted a stick in the ground on this hillside and declared that one day a city would grow here. Kiev is the result, and St Andrew’s church is built on the spot. The location of the annual event I just ran was directly across from here, and large […]

events

Why conduct learning journeys?

The future is often already with us… just it is unevenly distributed. That means, it can already be seen in another location, as can a range of best practices, alternative ways of doing things, and ideas for improvement! By taking a carefully selected group of individuals to a different location, a lot can be learned – at least if the learning journey is structured in such a way as to ensure that those travelling have the possibility to internalise what they see, and to process what it means for them.

What can 4sing offer?

At 4Sing, we help clients to set their goals, plan the journey, identify the best places to go and best people to meet, as well as to structure it in a way that participants can transfer what they discover into their own context, so they can answer “so what does this mean for me and my work/ organisation/ region”. We also accompany and facilitate expert sessions and visits. In some cases (depending on geography) we help organize the logistics on the ground. In the process we enhance the relevance of the learning experience for the participants and reduce the organisational load on the client.