Strategic Uncertainty

The goal is to create the capacity for resilience, no matter what’s thrown at you

Soren Kaplan – Don’t Create a Plan. Create a Strategy Uncertainty Map

Those that follow my Blog know that I do not believe in prediction. I am however a big believer in rehearsing the future. That quote above from a recent article points to why. It was several years ago when it became clear that the way we think about strategy needed to change. It was then that resilience and adaptability rose to the top of my imperatives list for leaders. If we cannot shift with the rapid shifts on the horizon, it will be difficult to succeed. Soren Kaplan, the author of the article, said it this way: “Forget 10-year visions. Forget 5-year roadmaps. Forget three-year plans. Long term is a year. Short-term is a month.” I couldn’t agree more.

Our struggle as leaders stems from our need for certainty. Ambiguity and a lack of certainty do not provide the confidence we need in the decisions we make. But the number of building blocks emerging and accelerating across multiple domains makes prediction impossible. The article by Mr. Kaplan proposes the use of a strategy uncertainty map focused on two categories: the external environment and internal capabilities. The approach uses a scoring mechanism to capture the degree of certainty from low (1) to high (10). This represents one of several methods that we can leverage, using criteria to drive focus. Other methods are used in an attempt to make sense of all this uncertainty. One such method is the assumptions versus knowledge method used by the Future Today Institute (visual from their library of frameworks). These methods along with the criteria we deem important help in the rehearsing process – but the mental model shift is key – let go of your previous beliefs about strategy.

It is clear that collective knowledge is a critical part of addressing the uncertainty-certainty spectrum. No one individual or organization could possibly grasp the sheer number of building blocks present and emerging. Some of the same forces that contribute to uncertainty ultimately help us deal with it. Throughout history, it has been the growth of knowledge that has driven human development. Artificial intelligence likely takes us to the pinnacle of knowledge – and the foresight that comes with it. Lastly, we must consider the lessons of history, for they may be the best indicator of what is to come.

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