- Phase One (Orient) – creates a clearly articulated issue/question
- Phase Two (Explore) – identifies all driving forces.
- Phase Three (Synthesize) – prioritizes driving forces
- Phase Four (Act) – crafts the strategic agenda
- Phase Five (Monitor) – signals the need for tweaks to the strategic agenda
Gather the scenario frameworks from the Synthesize phase and fully immerse yourself in their narratives. Imagine that the future circumstances of each scenario are really occurring and ask yourself:
- What actions would I take today to prepare?
- What could I do to increase the likelihood that this scenario will come true?
- What could I do to decrease the likelihood that this scenario will come true?
Answering the questions will reveal scenario implications for each scenario. If the scenario describes a future in which there is reduced government funding and a weak economy, it is safe to deduce that one implication would result in less funding for the organization. It may also expedite innovative approaches the organization has wanted the opportunity to explore as another possible implication.
Your strategic agenda will start to emerge as you reflect on the implications of each scenario.
Begin by searching for implications common to all scenarios because they represent the lowest level of risk. The same implication present in each scenario will make it most likely to come true in the future. One implication likely to be present in all scenarios for a not-for-profit organization is funding shortfalls regardless of government funding or the strength of the economy. Basing your strategy on funding shortfalls is fairly safe.
Relying on a scenario implication that is singularly different from other scenarios represents the highest level of risk because there is a lower likelihood that it will come true. Basing your strategy on the future outcome of an election is risky for the organization.
“The test of a good set of scenarios is not whether in the end it turns out to portray the future accurately but whether it enables an organization to learn, adapt and take effective action.” (P.30, What if? The Art of Scenario Thinking for NonProfits)
Monitoring the strategic agenda is often the stage that gets sidelined by the day-to-day routine of the organization. Monitoring involves watching for signals indicating changes in the environment potentially impacting the organization and its strategic agenda.
The key to the Monitor phase is selecting the correct signals to watch by identifying a set of ‘leading indicators’. They should contain a mix of qualitative and quantitative information from the local, national and international contexts. Then take some time to make adjustments to your strategic agenda.