eading under austerity and change already looked challenging enough for most
managers. Now political and economic storms via Brexit and Donald Trump’s iconoclastic presidency in America have reinforced the diffi culties for leaders today in dealing with dilemmas: they need to make good business choices, moving at a rapid pace under unprecedented uncertainty while en- gaging people to contribute positively. Leaders have to redefi ne how
they deal with a volatile, complex and uncertain world and L&D professionals can play a major part in helping to shape this way ahead.
The STAR framework
T e STAR framework of Situation, Target, Action and Review is a helpful way to develop strategy in the face of uncertainty:
In complex situations involving multiple stakeholders and sources of data, it will be benefi cial to involve others in gathering diff erent perspectives on the current situation. Finding a shared need to solve a problem and connecting people from diff erent disciplines and functions inside and outside the organisation can help shape strategic change. One of the most valuable ways to think about the future is through scenario planning, asking “What if?” to understand the key drivers. T is might be followed by considering “What is the best/worst case”? T ought also needs to be given to the size of the issue at stake, making a judgment on the magnitude of its impact. Key questions you can ask
in assessing the situation: What is the specifi c situation we fi nd ourselves in?
What is happening now? What are the signs and symptoms?
What are six key external uncer- tainties aff ecting the business? And six key internal uncertainties?
What is the impact of the situation? And on whom?
What are others’ perspec- tives on the issue?
What have we tried in the past and how did this work?
Who might help in creating or generating a new way forward?
The STAR Framework
What SITUATION are we in? Unclear and fast-moving business environments require leaders to understand their current situation much more thoroughly than previously and this can lead to stripping away sometimes comfortable assumptions.
How much uncertainty do we face? Organisations can usefully better understand their situation by recog- nising how much uncertainty they face. As they look ahead, organisations can sort the level of uncertainty into four categories (see table 1):1
Table 1 Category 1
High degree of certainty and clear future visible
Clear alternatives visible
Wider but defi nable range of futures
Open, fl uid and ambiguous way ahead
What is the TARGET? Where are we heading? T e focus of the strategic planning process is to set a general direction, obtain stakeholder input and commitment to that general direction and build the organisation’s capacity. T e strategic plan should not limit the organisation’s capabilities, rather it builds them. Leaders often think that the vision or strategy should be set in the boardroom, but engaging others in the development of vision is a powerful way of increasing motivation and commitment. T e key during your strategic planning process is not to focus
straightaway on the detailed develop- ment of numerous goals and objectives, rather to identify key strategic themes which will help the business move towards its vision in complex and uncertain times. Strategic themes can then be turned into concrete goals.
Key questions: What are our strategies to address uncertainty?
What specifi cally needs to be diff erent? And by when?
What would you like to be going through our (and others’ ) minds and what would you like yourself and oth- ers to say? And to feel? And to hear?
What goals and objectives do we need to set to achieve our strategic plan?
What are our measures of success? Are these achievable? If not, what would be and by when?
What ACTIONS do we need to take? What steps do we need to take to move forward? Reconfi guring busi- nesses to manage uncertainty requires speeding up the process of putting plans into action, aff ecting people, processes, technology and structures. T is recognises the importance of sensing and reacting to changes in the business environment in a way that is responsive and rapid. For example, businesses such as Amazon quickly pilot prototypes to experiment and test new service concepts and ideas. Key questions you should ask to
stimulate thinking about current actions: What actions can we take to change the situation we face?
What alternatives do we have? Which actions that we propose are most practicable?
Who do we need to support us? How can we gain this support? How and when can we do this?
How do we REVIEW progress? What types of review should we use for how long and how frequently? Traditional approaches to reviewing organisational decisions need updating for today’s challenges: a few top managers or specialists poring over fi nancial data is inadequate. Creating safe spaces for experi- menting and prototyping can help stimulate change, as can reviewing learning, and building on what works
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