Making strategic decisions against a shifting backdrop is one of the key challenges facing organizations today.
New business models are emerging and disrupting markets almost overnight. The pace of technological change is relentless and the pressure to innovate and keep one step ahead of the competition is intense.
In such an unpredictable and fast-moving environment, the idea of a two-year strategy, let alone a five or 10-year plan, can feel like an alien concept. Best laid plans are going out of the window as new opportunities and fresh challenges arise. Businesses are fire-fighting, making decisions in the here and now, striving to maintain operational excellence, while at the same time keeping an eye on the future.
The problem is that without a clear vision of what lies ahead–and a strategy for working towards it–organizations are putting their very survival at risk. It may not be possible to know the detail of what tomorrow will look like but to ensure a sustainable future, organizations need to be planning for it now. They need to develop what is known as ‘future consciousness’–an awareness of future potential in the present moment.
There are many tools and techniques that companies can call on to support strategy development, but over recent years, interest has been growing in the Three Horizons model. It’s a tool that provides organizations with a pathway through complexity and ambiguity and helps them solve seemingly intractable problems.
In the first horizon, organizations are recognizing that as the world changes around them, ‘business as usual’ is no longer fit for purpose and that they need to consider new ways of doing things.
In the second horizon, new approaches are beginning to emerge, and leaders are having to make difficult decisions about whether to protect their core (but probably declining) business or invest heavily in new and innovative approaches that might replace it.
The third horizon is where radical changes are happening, innovations are starting to be put into practice, and the new ‘business as usual’ is becoming established.
Researchers at Ashridge Executive Education at Hult International Business School are about to embark on a study that aims to find out exactly how leadership teams balance present concerns with future aspirations, using the Three Horizon Model as a framework.
The research will explore how the teams are approaching the task of developing strategy across different time horizons and what enables and constrains them in their attempts to become ‘ambidexterous’.
The research teams are looking for executive members of top management teams who would be willing to contribute to the study by taking part in a confidential, virtual interview with an Ashridge professor.
Taking part in this exercise will give participants a valuable opportunity to reflect on how their organization is managing the strategy process. They will also get first sight of the findings and will be invited to an exclusive event where they can share experiences and discuss learnings and implications.
Dr Nadine Page
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