We Searched the Future. . .
. . . and found it would be exciting, challenging, scary, and alive with possibilities.
The Future Search Process builds on all our work of the past. Our regular plans. The work we do that teaches us about our markets and how to talk with, and motivate them. Our experiences in control, in systems, in leadership, in management, in development, in communications. In everything.
This Process is attempting to bring together everything we know about World Vision Australia and the world with which we relate.
But it is more than just "bringing together." Future Search is about addressing our concerns about efficiency, integrity and effectiveness.
Our knowledge must not only be gathered. It must be put to work.
So the real work of the Future Search Process still lies ahead of us.
Here is what is coming.
First, within the next couple of weeks, a group of about 15 people, drawn from our original multi-search conference, will meet. They will complete the first steps of identifying the key strategic issues, and completing actions plans, and targets associated with each of the strategic issues.
If that sounds a bit technical, this might help.
Five issues were identified as key for our organisational future. They are:
1. Vision. What is our mission? What kind of a world do we hope for? Are our values clear? What is our core business?
2. Organisation. What structure do we need? How do we ensure integrity between how funds are raised and spent? How do we become a learning organisation? How will we manage risk? How do we become a more open organisation?
3. External Relations. What key alliances and relationships are important for World Vision? How do we maintain our identity and improve credibility? How do we make the system more predictable for everyone? How do we improve networking? Can we see World Vision as the hub of a more adaptive development system?
4. Marketing. What work do we need to do to position the development aid system more positively with the Australian community? How do we develop new customers?
5. Evaluation. How do we develop a complete model of evaluation recognising efficiency, effectiveness and achievement of desired outcomes? How do we apply it to improve accountability?
Under one or more of these headings fit all the questions that have been asked by Board and staff in the last five years. Maybe ever.
Once the 15 person group has completed its work, a draft of the Strategic Plan will be circulated. We shall place a copy in a shared area, or some other way, making it is accessible to all.
In a month or two we shall conduct a second workshop to get responses on the draft Strategic Plan, determine our priorities for the next year and agree to who will be accountable for each strategy.
After that we shall be into our normal FY96 planning cycle. In that process we shall develop participative ways to turn our strategies into down-to-earth plans.
Then we shall put them to work.
Then we shall hold one another accountable for getting the work done.
Living With Certainty
"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." Benjamin Franklin, 1789
Even death is likely to change in the future. Or, at least, delayed.
In earlier editions of Trellis I have written about the rapid, discontinuous change affecting the world today.
This came out again in our Future Search Conference. One example is the number of opposite trends happening in the world at the same time.
For example, more people are richer than ever before, and more are poorer. Those with work are working ever longer hours, while others are unemployed for longer periods.
We need new ways of thinking about work. Not just for Boards and executives, but for each one of us to reframe our minds about how we work ourselves.
Much of the change that we are experiencing just creeps up on us.
It is as if we wake up one morning and suddenly say "What happened!"
When I came to Melbourne in 1976, smog was a rare event. Now we have many smoggy days every summer. I hardly noticed it happening.
It's just one small (but important) example of how much change happens.
I am told, although I've never tried it, that if you put a frog in cold water and slowly heat it up, the frog doesn't notice what is going on until it's too late. It's boiled.
Unless we step back and look carefully at the changes that are happening, we might be like the frog. Boiled alive by unconscious complacency.
How should we respond?
There appear to be two answers to this question around World Vision Australia.
One is to try to identify and accentuate the certainties. In an uncertain world, we yearn for security.
"Let's do more strategic planning".
"Let's get our plans clear, and stick to them."
"Let's remove uncertainty about what we are going to do."
This is OK as far as it goes. But it is dangerous too.
For a start, the world is increasingly uncertain. Predictions are likely to be wrong.
Also, how can you be clear about something that you haven't thought yet?
The second response is to design processes that will help us to react to change.
This means learning how to learn. Do you know the four steps of learning? Did you study Chris Argyris or Edward de Bono at school? Probably not. It's not too late.
It means shifting our management emphasis from strategic planning to strategic processes.
This means concentrating more on creating responsive, flexible ways of working.
Leaders must spend more time on creating an enabling structure, and less on working out what that structure is supposed to do.
This second job (working out what to do) must be increasingly delegated to empowered people to get on with it. To try new things. To take risks. To be bold. To make mistakes. And be forgiven.