• Eeva Vilkkumaa

Five key take-aways on resilient strategies

Swanlake co-founder Eeva Vilkkumaa attended the Academy of Finland Strategic Research Conference Preparing for the future: analyzing and identifying responses to societal challenges using scenarios and other tools for future scanning” on October 7-8. 

One of the keynote speakers at this conference was Professor Steve Evans, the Director of Research at the Institute for Manufacturing at The University of Cambridge.

Here are Eeva’s five key takeaways from Steve Evans’s talk on resilient strategies: 

  1. A resilient strategy works under all foreseeable conditions. One way to characterize alternative future conditions is through the development of multiple scenarios. Scenarios are typically built based on a selected set of key drivers of future change. However, when choosing these drivers, we implicitly assume that other aspects in the world around us remain stable, at least within the limits of our planning horizon. How valid are these assumptions? For instance, how many of us questioned the assumption of a constant increase in travel just a year ago? Building a resilient strategy requires us to be mindful of our assumptions on stability, and to question such assumptions even when they seem self-evident.

  2. A resilient strategy is NOT optimal under all conditions. Different futures call for different optimal strategies; there is no way around it. Because we cannot predict the future, we cannot be sure about which strategic choices would in fact, turn out to be “optimal”. The key to building a resilient strategy is to identify those strategic actions that perform relatively well across different futures and, if possible, help steer the course of the future towards the more desirable directions. 

  3. A resilient strategy has an early warning system for major change. Strategy work requires constant monitoring of the operational environment. The earlier we can recognize that a major regime shift is taking place, the more time we have to prepare for and even benefit from such change. 

  4. A resilient strategy is able to change rapidly. Detecting a major change does not pay off unless it leads to appropriate changes in strategy. This does not mean that strategic objectives or choices should be continuously updated – on the contrary, an overly agile attitude to the strategy may in some cases severely distort the functioning of some core processes of the organization. Nevertheless, once the need for strategic change has been recognized, there must be ways to implement it without unnecessary delay.

  5. A resilient strategy can survive the storm. In the case of deep, unanticipated crises (such as the one triggered by Covid-19), the primary objective of many companies is to survive. In practice, such survival may require keeping cash reserves available for a rainy day.