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The Business Weather Forecast


September 1, 2001
By Pulp & Paper Canada

Every journey into the unknown needs a good weather forecast. Meteorology provides useful parallels for best practices in business forward thinking. Unfortunately, it is common practice to extrapolate…

Every journey into the unknown needs a good weather forecast. Meteorology provides useful parallels for best practices in business forward thinking. Unfortunately, it is common practice to extrapolate from the past, go with the “gut,” or follow the herd in formulating business strategy for some anticipated future competitive environment. These approaches are perceived as low-risk, when in fact they are high-risk with respect to achieving a leading competitive advantage. The winner will be the organization with an effective Business Weather Forecast system that enables pre-emptive action to avoid risk, or capitalize on opportunity. As with meteorology, appropriate tools and organization structures are required for effective Business Weather Forecasting.

Like the weather, business environments are uncertain. There are ambiguous signals that frequently engender unwise knee-jerk reactions. There is the dilemma of short-term survival and planning for long-term prosperity. There is the unexpected event that sideswipes the best laid business plan. Weather forecasting has evolved a well-honed set of tools to deal with uncertainty: the science of meteorology. Comparable business tools are also available, but they are not widely used. Climate Change and Business Change are both accelerating processes in need of future scanning tools.

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Why is this important?

By implementing a Business Weather Forecasting discipline, an organization achieves a new understanding on how to capitalize on future uncertainty. It will have a structured framework within which to formulate solutions to complex future-focused business issues. It will achieve a shared appreciation — a common language — for factors driving the current business environment. Furthermore, an organization that is “sensitized” to the future, increases its chances of uncovering unexpected solutions and finding new competitive spaces. Most importantly an organization will have the ability to recognize changing situations early. The capability for pre-emptive action to avoid a threat or seize an opportunity will more than ever be a cornerstone for competitive advantage. For more information on how to implement a proven tool-based future scanning process into your organization, please contact the author.

Alan R. Procter can be reached at futureviews@alanprocter.com. For more information, visit www.futureviews.net

Challenges for theChallenges for the
real weather forecast:business weather forecast:
Discovery of the forces that influence the weatherIdentification of factors that influence your business
[seasons, geographic location, terrain, solar effects….]environment [technology, society, markets, politics…]
Determination of a concise set of key driving forcesEvaluation of the uncontrollable key driving factors
for weather changeshaping the business environment
Monitoring the current state of these forces [weatherMonitoring the current state of these factors [internal
stations, satellites]and external scanning protocols]
Prediction of severe weather situations [at a certainAnticipation of plausible business environments
time or place][future projections]
Continuously updating the weather chart [not aMust be a continuous process [not a project every
once-a-week process]2 or 3 years]
Quality of the forecast may vary greatly [dependsQuality of the business forecast varies greatly [process,
on data, models, processing speed]right people, good information sources, imagination]
Acknowledges different forecasting focusesAcknowledges different forecasting focuses [strategy,
[macroclimate, microclimate, global weather patterns]products, competitors, cost/quality, market direction]
The weather forecast in the news:Business forecast in corporations:
A consistent plausible story describing the future ofConsistent and plausible scenarios: stories describing
weather and its consequencesthe future business environment
Communicates better than meteorological data andCommunicates better than business statistics, charts
raw weather mapsand single trends
Long-term goals:Long-term goals:
More precise forecasts for any time/any placeMore plausible business environments to frame
planning
Early warning for severe weather conditionsEarly warning for threats and opportunities and
[tornado, hurricane paths]possible wild cards
More time to prepare for severe weather conditionsMore time for pre-emptive action toward rapid
change
Prediction of long-term climate changeCreation of future robust strategies


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