Navigating market disruptions with a strategic approach

Rapid advancement in consumer and medical technology along with the disruption of the global pandemic, presented an opportunity for Guide Dogs to reflect and reset the strategic horizon. Guide Dogs wanted to build a more long-term vision and explore how they could effectively adapt to changing demands in the future.  

But how do you forecast the future, and overlay a range of varying disruptive challenges, in a robust data-centric way?

At Quirk’s London, alongside Aileen Bradley, Head of Strategy at Guide Dogs UK, we discussed the approach taken that became the springboard to thinking longer term. Read on to discover how our predictive forecasting tool and scenario planning helped Guide Dogs look to the future. 

Strategic planning during unprecedented disruption

Guide Dogs has existed for more than 90 years and over this time has transformed the lives of thousands of people living with sight loss. It is a charity that helps both adults and children live the life they choose through the provision of a range of services including guide dogs.

The disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted the charity’s work forcing it into necessary short-term planning, but with other external pressures including advancing technology building, there was a need to look past the challenges of today.

“The evolving external landscape will put even more pressure on the charity sector going forward. Given the complexity of our supply chain we need to lean into these pressures and start to plan much further out so we can evolve in a way that keeps in step with our customers’ needs. SKIM brought the right balance of deep customer insight and modeling rigor to help us scenario plan into our future with confidence.”

– Aileen Bradley, Head of Strategy, Guide Dogs
Strategic planning during unprecedented disruption

A comprehensive approach to forecasting

Our collaboration with Guide Dogs was designed to anticipate demand for the guide dog service based on a 15-year horizon.

 “Of course, we can’t predict the future, but what we could do is use the knowledge held today to create a systematic range of potential future scenarios so that the charity can prepare for as many eventualities as possible.”

Stephen Scales, Director, SKIM

The project was executed in five phases:

  1. Kick-off: Alignment of strategic objectives with all stakeholders.
  2. Needs evaluation: Conducting thorough literature reviews and qualitative research with healthcare professionals and people with sight loss.
  3. Data integration: Merging diverse data inputs from Guide Dogs and external national statistics to develop an advanced forecasting tool. The tool projected potential scenarios where demand could increase by as much as 48% or decrease to 20% of current levels.
  4. Scenario planning: Each scenario, derived from an extensive data integration process and the application of advanced forecasting models such as the Bass Diffusion Model and Branch Analysis, presents a different future state based on varying degrees of technological advancement, shifts in healthcare policy, and changes in societal attitudes towards disability and assistance animals. These scenarios ranged from significant increases in demand to substantial decreases. This phase allowed us to prioritize four main scenarios for strategic planning.
  5. Activating leadership: We conducted a Scenario Planning Activation Workshop with the leadership team where they engaged deeply with the four scenarios to develop detailed business plans. This hands-on approach ensured that possible future states were planned for, with strategies developed and ready for implementation as conditions evolve.

Futureproofing with advanced scenario-based strategic planning

By mapping and workshopping these scenarios, Guide Dogs became equipped to navigate the future with a robust framework tailored to anticipate and respond to a range of potential outcomes of closest relevance to the charity.

Key takeaways for your organization in navigating change

This case study showcases the power of forward-thinking based on detailed scenario planning. Here are a few takeaways if your organization is also trying to shift to long-term thinking:

  1. Embrace long-term strategic planning: Transitioning from a short-term, reactive approach to a long-term, strategic mindset is crucial. Invest in building capabilities to forecast and plan for future scenarios, even when current circumstances push towards immediate responses.
  2. Invest in advanced forecasting tools: Prepare for various future states by integrating data and leveraging forecasting models. These models help to make informed decisions that align with both current and future needs.
  3. Engage in scenario planning: Navigate uncertainties more effectively by developing multiple scenarios that account for various possible futures. This approach ensures readiness for different outcomes, enhancing adaptability and resilience.
  4. Activate leadership commitment: Facilitate leadership workshops and strategic sessions to align the organizational vision and ensure that strategic plans are practical and actionable.
  5. Review and adapt regularly: The external environment is constantly changing. Review strategic plans and the external landscape regularly to stay relevant and responsive. This allows for timely adjustments to strategies, maintaining organizational agility.
  6. Prioritize stakeholder engagement: Foster collaboration and buy-in by engaging all stakeholders, including employees, clients, and partners, throughout the planning and implementation phases. This is critical for the success of long-term strategies.

By adopting these strategies, other organizations can mitigate the risks associated with a reactive approach and establish a foundation for sustained success and growth. Guide Dogs’ transformation serves as an inspiring example of how organizations can effectively future proof their services and maintain leadership in their fields, even in unpredictable times.

Want to future proof your organization? Get in touch with SKIM today for a consultation.