Forward-Looking Options

“Our struggles with positioning ourselves for the future do not stem from lack of imagination or intuitive capability to picture tomorrow. It is our reluctance to devote sufficient time to such a critical task, as well as our limited know-how on how to consider our future options.”

Ideally we should have everyone within an organization involved in such an exercise, or at least representatives from every corner of the organization. It should certainly not be dominated by the executive team; otherwise it will be perceived as an executive exercise. In today’s enterprise we’re more likely to see a show-and-tell presentation, along with hearing instructions as to what everyone will be doing going forward. In tomorrow’s organization we will see sub-group conversations around an appropriate option solving question like, “What key considerations should we be pursuing to build a dynamic and financially healthy future?” Everyone within the organization will have thoughts and ideas about this, so by starting an across the board conversation we are likely to tap into a great reservoir of insight.

  • The question posed (“What key considerations should we be pursuing to build a dynamic and financially healthy future?”) will encourage sub-groups of participants (hopefully the whole organization or a worthy cross-section of it- the more the merrier) to make several proposals on what will propel their organization forward.
  • Through facilitation, that list will be reduced to five or six alternatives; framed by a couple of the most unlikely options – or “bookends” (see Latest Example).
  • An individually based, confidential poll of all participants will reveal the most likely forward-looking option. Potential examples include: more innovative products/services, better focused marketing efforts, more responsive customer service, go in a new direction, more effective leadership, and so on. (Note: Such an activity takes some guts by executives, but can pay enormous dividends both in insight and good will. – see Latest Example.)
  • Such a poll invokes the “wisdom of the crowd:” that is, participants’ view of what it would take for their organization to produce more dynamic and financially healthy growth. (Note: Rather than just depend on a sole senior executive [or small band of executives] to make such a choice, the collective view of the largest group of participants is much more likely to draw out the best conclusion – see book “The Wisdom of Crowds” by James Suroweicki.)
  • One other option, especially with non-profits, is to get a core group of board members together and work the Forward-Looking Options exercise through with them (either partially or fully). They can then set up another session with a wider board group, where the whole group assembled can contribute to the earlier deliberations, add to it, and then take an independent-poll of everyone assembled to determine the most likely way forward.


Thanks Option Solving. (NOTE: Next posting in 2 weeks: “Influencing the outcome of a key decision, through Option Solving.”  Make your COMMENTS or go to peter to connect with the author.)


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