Strategic foresight workshop: Navigating major projects in an uncertain world

The Major Projects Association annual conference on 20th and 21st September, 2017 includes a workshop on foresighting facilitated by Cat Tully of the School of International Futures. The following thought piece provides the context for workshop.

Thought Piece

“Foresight [is] the capacity to think systematically about the future to inform decision making today” – Maree Conway

Our environment is rapidly changing. Existing governance systems face unprecedented challenges in an increasingly uncertain and networked world. These include, for example: the direction of the globalized economy; the volatile resource pressures of a growing global middle-class; the way technology and automation is revolutionizing work; round-the-clock media; and a new global multipolarity that reflects the growing influence of emerging state and non-state actors.

These changes require us to move away from linear views of the future and traditional planning approaches, to adopt strategic foresight and systems-thinking.  These approaches can help to untangle and engage with complexity. Taking a participative approach can also help to understand the question and implications from multiple perspectives and can develop solutions that will be both owned and adopted by stakeholders.

 “Foresight allows decision makers to make a more informed and timely assessment of the likely impact of policies against a background of possible future environments.  Foresight is not about predicting the future; it is about making better decisions in the present” – Bob Johansen

Strategic foresight is a critical tool for effective organisations and leaders. Strategic foresight is not about predicting the future, but understanding your current and future operating environment. Insights gained from foresight equip organisations to recognise and respond to emerging threats and opportunities by developing enhanced competitiveness, resilience and agility.  This approach enables decision-makers to take an organized and systematic process to engage with uncertainty – with their wider stakeholders in your organization and beyond.

  • Make strategic choices to shape the future we want
  • Build preparedness to manage risk of alternative possible futures
  • Create future-ready organisations that can adapt as the future evolves

How do we go about this? Strategic foresight is grounded in three principles: 1. Understand the Drivers of change – the building blocks of the future; 2. Take a systemic approach; 3. Consider alternative futures.

A few tools used for strategic foresight: There are a number of tools to help with this process, some of the most commonly used ones include: Horizon scanning; Scenario planning; Wind-tunneling.  These, and others, will be used at the annual conference to guide delegates’ thinking.

Catarina Tully, School of International Futures and Workshop Leader

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