Some time ago I came across a “Deloitte Research Monograph” by Michael Raynor titled “Strategic Flexibility”. I can’t find a copy of the article online, but it was a terrific article about embracing uncertainty in a corporate setting.
The lessons are just as applicable in our own professional and personal lives.
Noting that “accurate prediction is impossible”, and that “we can predict anything but the future”, we should replace the idea of “strategic commitment – a lopsided bet on a single, stubborn vision of tomorrow” with “strategic flexibility”.
Strategic flexibility enables us to “engage several paths simultaneously without diluting the resources ultimately necessary to strike boldly in a given direction”.
Raynor provides a framework of strategic flexibility that involves four phases:
Instead of predicting the future, we should anticipate what the future may hold.
It’s valuable to look at the possible drivers of change and range of possible futures – the “possibility space” in front of us.
For example, in our professional lives, there’s the risk – and opportunity – of automation. If we work in an organisation, it’s worth looking at the demographics of the people you work with, and considering what this will mean in the years ahead.
For a range of possible futures, develop an optimal strategy, and identify which elements of these strategies are “core” and “contingent”.
By considering each of these futures, commonalities and differences will start to emerge. The common elements are those that are “core”.
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Since these core elements will be useful in the face of almost any future, the next step is to acquire the elements and capabilities to execute these core elements.
Acquiring capabilities to execute on some of the contingent elements can also be acquired to take advantages of opportunities that present themselves, or be used to hedge against adverse events.
The final (but ongoing) step is to “Execute the core strategy, monitor the environment and exercise or abandon options as appropriate.”
Of course, this is applicable in a corporate setting.
But it’s also applicable in our personal lives – especially our professional lives.