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At an Institute of Director’s economic briefing in November, the Chief Economist of the IOD said that we are still facing uncertainty, its just that the uncertainties are changing. I think the uncertainty continues to change, especially with impending elections and economic fog.

Therefore I find two tools most useful in this time of uncertainty (and changing uncertainty):

1) Value chain analysis (cf Michael Porter) to understand the landscape around the organisation. Once I understand the landscape, then the strategy (in its various forms should make sense – or at least you can see better the implications of the strategies). (To use a metaphor, it addresses the question – “Where on our map has this hurricane blown us?”)

2) Scenario planning:  Understanding the range of ways that the world might evolve, and testing your strategy against these extreme scenarios.  After all you would not fly an untested plane, so why fly and untested strategy?

2) A simple question and listening to the response. The question is, “What uncertainties are your customers facing?”. (Again to use the same metaphor, It starts to address the questions – “How big is this hurricane? Where is affected? Where is a safe port and are we near some rocks?”)

The reason for this is that if you understand what is making people uncertain, then you have a chance of working out when those uncertainties will change and disappear (or doing something about them yourself). That means you can monitor the changing environment and its implications for the landscape and therefore make sensible strategic decisions. (You will know when the hurricane changes direction)

I have been doing talks and presentations on this subject (Managing Strategy in uncertain times) to various clients and groups – it seems to make sense to them, goes down well, and give them practical tools to address the (changing) uncertainties they face.

I call this approach “intelligence led strategic questioning” – you might call it “Talking to your customers about what worries them and matters to them”.

Managing strategy in uncertain times