The Value of Strategic Foresight

By Jonathan Tucker

In discussing the value of strategic foresight, it is important to distinguish it from forecasting. Forecasting seeks to predict discrete events in the future. By contrast, strategic foresight seeks to help decision makers think through uncertainty. It employs scenarios to consider how trends and developments in a number of areas may come together in different ways to affect the operating environment of an organization both positively and negatively.

The value of forecasting is clear and is directly related to its ability to accurately predict events of concern to decision makers. The value of strategic foresight is less obvious because its benefits, such as enhanced capacity to perceive change, are indirect and less readily measured. Even at Royal Dutch Shell, famed for its pioneering work in scenario-based planning, advocates have struggled at times to communicate its value to corporate leadership. Lessons from the Shell experience and the renewed corporate interest in scenario-based planning are discussed in a recent feature article in the Harvard Business Review, “Living in the Futures.” Continue reading “The Value of Strategic Foresight”


Promoting Strategic Foresight By Doing It: Putting Experts to the Test

By Robert Hale and Angela Antonelli

The Strategic Foresight Panel of NAPA’s Presidential Transition 2016 project seeks to help government leaders understand, value and utilize strategic foresight. By using strategic foresight, government leaders can better perceive the significance of events before they occur, which should lead to decisions that have the resiliency to withstand future challenges and support the policy and program needs of the future. The Panel hopes that, by finding ways for government agencies to better use strategic foresight, government leaders can move beyond immediate crises and improve their long-term planning and decision making. Continue reading “Promoting Strategic Foresight By Doing It: Putting Experts to the Test”

Rethinking Federal Grants Management: From Oversight to Insight

By Shelley H. Metzenbaum

Grants are among the most important tools the federal government uses to accomplish its objectives. At $600 billion, they comprise over 15 percent of annual outlays, forty percent higher than federal contract spending.

Sadly, the way federal grants are managed gets woefully little attention. To achieve higher returns on the taxpayer’s dollar, that needs to change. Both the mindset and the skill sets of federal grant managers need to evolve from primarily thinking about “conducting oversight” to figuring out instead how to generate insights that help grantees and others learn from experience and find new ways to improve performance along multiple dimensions, including outcomes, cost-effectiveness, customer experience (or, for regulated parties, interaction and transaction quality), fairness and unwanted side effects. That is not to suggest that persistently weak grantee performance is acceptable, but rather that attention to improvement should be the priority. Continue reading “Rethinking Federal Grants Management: From Oversight to Insight”

Strategic Foresight is a Measurable Activity

By Amy Zalman

The demand for measurable outcomes has historically posed an enduring challenge for Strategic Foresight projects both within and beyond governments.  As Robert Shea observes in his recent post on Advancing the Evidence Agenda in the next administration, the U.S. Government has long sought better nuance in measuring outcomes and to more readily surface programs’ evidence of effectiveness.  However, in the case of Strategic Foresight, common notions of outcomes and effectiveness may not apply, as I will explain in more detail below. This difficulty is no reason to throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater.  Rather, it is an opportunity to sharpen the government-wide understanding of what Strategic Foresight does—and does not—do, and to continue refining our measurement and evaluation toolset. Continue reading “Strategic Foresight is a Measurable Activity”

Transitioning Top Talent

By Hannah Sistare

The successful achievement of any Administration’s objectives depends upon a high-quality senior team heading Cabinet departments and agencies.  Fortunately, recent incoming and outgoing Administrations have shown themselves willing to work together before the Inauguration.

Human capital management remains a critical topic for the next Administration. In particular, the ability to attract and retain talented, high-ranking employees in key senior positions and the importance of preparing them to serve are issues of grave importance and concern. Members of the Academy’s Transition 16 Panel highlighted issues and posed questions to define the challenges and elicit suggestions on how to address these issues.

Continue reading “Transitioning Top Talent”

Advancing the Evidence Agenda in the Next Administration

By Robert Shea

Since the 1990s and earlier, the Federal Government has been on a quest to improve its achievement of results, refine its measurement of outcomes, increase the availability of evidence of effectiveness, and strengthen the integration of such information in management and budgeting. Continue reading “Advancing the Evidence Agenda in the Next Administration”

Effective Strategic Foresight is Rooted in Cross-Agency Collaboration

By Sid Kaplan

Cross-agency collaboration is essential for effective strategic foresight.  How can existing efforts be improved to achieve this goal?

Events of recent years and certainly those of today demonstrate that we live in a period of unprecedented uncertainty.  From the federal government’s perspective it is clear that its decades-long structure of a web of stove-piped organizations, outdated decision-making procedures, and much of today’s strategic planning processes inhibit effective governance.  These processes are often fragmented across agencies and when interagency collaboration does occur it often relies on informal, ad hoc or reactive efforts that are usually temporary and easily weakened or eliminated.

Continue reading “Effective Strategic Foresight is Rooted in Cross-Agency Collaboration”