Recently, I facilitated strategic planning for a client for whom I did the same kind of work five years ago. In an opening exercise, we considered some of the biggest changes along with what we missed five years ago. In 2014, we never uttered the words “opioid crisis”. Yet, the term emerged as a top phrase for each of the break-out groups in reflecting on top changes over five years. In simple teams, we missed it.
One of my favorite philosophers is former Yankees manager (1949-1960) Casey Stengel, who once offered this pearl:
Never make predictions, especially about the future.
With all due respect to baseball’s Old Perfessor, you have to consider the future or run the risk of manufacturing buggy whips when cars are the dominant form of transportation. In an updated note, Ford has just announced plans for an electric SUV called the Mustang. Of course, this raises the question of when Ford saw the shift from gas fueled muscle cars to environmentally sensitive SUVs?
The best way to ponder the future is still the well-known SWOT process which stand for examining your internal Strengths and Weaknesses and aligning them with external Opportunities and Threats. As you might imagine, the trickiest part of the SWOT process deals with the latter part of predicting trends in the external environment. Consider the president of Michigan Savings Bank who in 1903 warned investors to steer clear of Ford by observing:
The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty, a fad.
Suffice it to say that environmental scanning is both tricky and essential. The best resource I have found to inform this process is Bain’s Labor 2030: The Collision of Demographics, Automation and Inequality. The tagline to this sixty plus page missive is tantalizing:
The business environment of the 2020s will be more volatile and economic swings more extreme.
This is not an easy read unless you digest macroeconomics the way I consume news on the New York Yankees. In fairness to the report’s writers, they illustrate most of their key points, and there are many, with excellent figures and graphs. I commend it to you as an excellent resource for strategic planning that can be found with a simple google search.
In a closing note on change, if you said google prior to 2002 people would have no idea what you were talking about.