Planning for the unknown

 In Thoughts

It’s that time of year when lots of organisations start to reflect on their strategic plans. Time to consider previous goals and to look ahead to the future.

But these are turbulent times for many in the voluntary and public sector. Budget reductions – a result of constrained earned and fundraised income – come at a time of increased costs. And then of course there’s the great unknowns around our economy, with the impact of Brexit on staffing, productivity and the pound in our individual pockets looking increasingly uncertain.

Suddenly, future forecasting feels even more tricky.

And it’s within this economic turbulence that Social Engine have been working with a few different organisations to plan their roadmaps into the years ahead. But with so much uncertainty, how can anyone be confident looking ahead? Well, in reality we all have to live with a level of uncertainty and that’s where adapting our approaches becomes essential. It’s where evidence based practice comes into its own, where embedding evaluation – and spelling out progress measures as well as outcome measures really does provide some surety.

British economist John Maynard Keynes is oft quoted as saying,

‘When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, Sir?’

Adapting this to our workplace cultures feels ever more important. Where once organisations might have set out a plan and then checked in on progress at various intervals now the need to learn, test and adapt has become a vital operating approach. Whilst consciously accepting uncertainty and building it into operating styles might feel like new territory, it can be hugely motivating for staff, providing the framework to try different routes to achieving the end goal.

Theories of change, logic models: increasingly these methodologies are informing strategic thinking, but to get best effect they can also be used at an operational level, enabling the whole team to consider the inputs, outputs and outcomes over time whilst tracking this progress within the external context and explicit assumptions about the wider environment.

So whilst 2018 might not look any more certain than 2017 has been it’s good to know that the tools we have to define approaches and the ways we use evidence to design and evaluate impact can make working life a lot less turbulent.

If you’d like to talk with Social Engine about developing your strategic or operating plans do drop us a line, we’ll be happy to share some ideas.

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