Dr. Scott Reed discusses the future of Extension.

What all organizations can learn as we move forward.

While attending the Epsilon Sigma Phi Distinguished Service Ruby Lecture in Wilmington, North Carolina on October 10, 2017, I was captivated by a presentation titled Legacy and Future: Disruptive Innovation Wins by A. Scott Reed.

The presentation was direction to Extension employees from around the country, but the message transcended the boundaries of our organizations. What caught me the most were his thoughts on Strategic Planning. Many of us have spent much time in our careers helping organizations complete strategic plans and offering facilitation services in order to bring them to fruition.

In his lecture, Dr. Reed point out that “Systematic needs assessments, the hallmark of extension program planning, may be on their way out as episodic data collection, instead giving way to real-time, constant conversations with society. A growing literature describes strategic planning as dead! Instead, leading companies focus on nimble and flexible execution of programs. The simple recognition is that the future doesn’t cooperate with plans. Thus, a great organization should assess alternative future scenarios and plan contingencies. A recent Forbes magazine article prescribes development of effective teams within a nimble organizational culture and looking three months out to maintain agility and an ability to adjust on the fly.”

The article he refers to, How Leaders Inspire Change In The 21st Century highlights 10 principles leaders can follow to create change in their organizations. The article begins with “successfully leading lasting change in any organization is more complicated than ever before. And mastering the art of organizational transformation is a necessity in today's more volatile, uncertain and complex global business landscape. The workplace has become more digital, more diverse and more reliant on advanced technology, yet most organizations and their leaders have yet to understand how to leverage these new opportunities for increase efficiency and agility.”

The strategic plan is dead. Long live strategy,” explains that creating strategies that are truly adaptive requires that we give up on many long-held assumptions. As the complexity of our physical and social systems make the world more unpredictable, we have to abandon our focus on predictions and shift into rapid prototyping and experimentation so that we learn quickly about what actually works.

These were thought provoking concepts I’ve rarely given much consideration and wonder how much others have? Is strategic planning really DEAD or are we simply doing it differently?

Michigan State University Extension educators can provide your organization with assistance in learning more about Leadership. The Government and Public Policy team also offers training for elected and appointed officials for improved effectiveness in several areas, including various public policy issues and effects of government programs, regulation, incentives, strategies and more. By working together with local elected and appointed officials, and interested citizens, MSU Extension is able to provide education on critical local and state issues. To contact an expert in your area, visit MSU Extension’s expert search system or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464). 

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