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Ranking the issues according to weights calculated in this manner implicitly assumes that the item identified in the scanning is indeed an emerging issue-that is, one that has an element of surprise. If all of the items identified in scanning are new and emerging and portend this element of surprise (that is, they are unknown to the educational community or at least to the community of the institution now and will remain that way until they emerge with surprise and the potential for upset), then the strategic planning process would do well to focus on those that are most likely to do so and to have the greatest impact. If, however, the issues are not surprises, then another system of evaluating and ranking the events and issues will be necessary. For example, if the entire community knows of a particular event and expects that it will not happen, then this low probability will produce a low priority. Yet, if the event would in fact occur, then it would be of great importance. The surprise then is in the occurrence of the unexpected. The key in this case is the upset expectation. It may be just as much of an upset if an item that everyone expects to occur does not in fact happen. Thus, the evaluation of a probability-impact chart depends on another dimension-that is, one of expectation and awareness. The most important events might be those of high impact and high uncertainty, that is, those centered around the 50 percent probability line. These are the events that are as likely as not to occur and portend an element of surprise for some portion of the community when they happen or do not happen.

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QUEST (Nanus 1982) was developed to quickly and inexpensively provide the grist for strategic planning: forecasts of events and trends, an indication of the interrelationships among them and hence the opportunities for policy intervention, and scenarios that synthesize these results into coherent alternative futures. It is a face-to-face technique, accomplished through two day-long meetings spaced about a month apart. The procedure produces a comprehensive analysis of the external environment and an assessment of an organization's strategic options.A QUEST exercise usually begins with the recognition of a potentially critical strategic problem. The process requires a moderator, who may be an outside consultant, to facilitate posing questions that challenge obsolete management positions and to maintain an objective perspective on ideas generated during the activity. The process also requires a project coordinator, who must be an "insider," to facilitate translating the results of QUEST exercises into scenarios that address strategic questions embedded in the organizational culture.QUEST involves four steps. The first step, preparation, requires defining the strategic issue to be analyzed, selecting participants (12 to 15), developing an information notebook elaborating the issue, and selecting distraction-free workshop sites.The second step is to conduct the first planning session. It is important that at least one day be scheduled to provide sufficient time to discuss the strategic environment in the broadest possible terms. This discussion includes identifying the organization's strategic mission, the objectives reflected in this mission, key stake holders, priorities, and critical environmental events and trends that may have significant impacts on the organization. Much of this time will be spent evaluating the magnitude and likelihood of these impacts and their cross-impacts on each other and on the organization's strategic posture. Participants are encouraged to focus on strategic changes but not on the strategic implications of these changes. This constraint is imposed to delay evaluations and responses until a complete slate of alternatives is developed.The third step is to summarize the results of the first planning session in two parts: (1) a statement of the organization's strategic position, mission, objectives, stake holders, and so on, and (2) a statement of alternative scenarios illustrating possible external environments facing the organization over the strategic period. It is important that the report be attributed to the group, not sections to particular individuals. Correspondingly, it is important that the report reflect that ideas were considered on the basis of merit, not who advanced them. The report should be distributed a few days before the second group meeting, the final step.The second meeting focuses on the report and the strategic options facing the organization. These options are evaluated for their responsiveness to the changing external environment and for their consistency with internal strengths and weaknesses. While this process will not produce an immediate change in strategy, it should result in directions to evaluate the most important options in greater depth. Consequently, a QUEST exercise ends with specific assignments vis-à-vis the general nature of the inquiry needed to evaluate each option, including a completion date.The Focused Planning Effort was developed in 1971 (Boucher 1972). Like QUEST, it is an unusual kind of face-to-face meeting that draws systematically on the judgment and imagination of line and staff managers to define future threats and opportunities and find practical actions for dealing with them. Because the process is perfectlygeneral--that is, it can be used to address any complex judgmental questions on future mission or strategicpolicy--the range of applications has been widely varied. In recent years, topics have ranged from the potential merit of technologies to improve agricultural yields, to alternative futures for the data communications industry, to the assessment of human resources in the future.The FPE has the following features, which in concert make it a distinctive approach to strategic forecasting and policy assessment:The FPE process has three parts. The first--pre-meeting design--is the key. Each FPE requires its own design, and the process does not involve a pat formula. The design phase usually requires 10 to 15 days, spread over a few calendar weeks. During this phase, the problem is structured, needed historical data are collected, the FPE logic is defined in detail, and first-cut answers to the more important questions are obtained through interviews or a questionnaire or both. These preliminary answers serve as a check on the FPE design and as a basis for the discussion that will occur during the FPE itself. Ordinarily, this information is gathered from a larger group of people than the one that will participate in the FPE.The final design is usually formulated in two ways: first, as an agenda, which is distributed to the participants, and, second, as a set of written "modules," each describing a specific task to be completed in the FPE, its purpose, the methods to be used, the anticipated outcomes, and the time allotted for each step in the task. These modules serve as the basis of the sign-off in the final pre-FPE review.The second part of the process is the FPE itself. The number of participants can range from as few as seven or eight to as many as 20 to 25. The FPE normally requires two to three full days of intensive work, though FPEs have run anywhere from one to 12 days. The period can be consecutive or be spread out in four-hour blocks over a schedule that is convenient to all participants. Typically, the FPE is preceded by a luncheon or dinner meeting and a brief roundtable discussion, which serves to break the ice and helps to clarify expectations about the work to follow.The FPE can be manual or computer-assisted. D2S2TM, developed by the Policy Analysis Company, uses a standard floppy disk and personal computer, usually connected to a large-screen monitor or projector (Renfro 1985). The larger the group of participants, the greater the desirability of using such computer assistance. Not only is the collation of individual votes greatly speeded; in addition, the software developed by some consulting organizations that provide the FPE service (for example, the ICS Group and the Policy Analysis Company) can reveal the basis of differences among subgroups of the participants and draw certain inferences that are implied by the data but not readily apparent on the basis of the estimates themselves. In D2S2TM, it includes confidence weighting, vote sharing, and vote assignment.Although the design of the FPE is quite detailed, it is never rigid. On-the-spot changes are always required during the FPE in light of the flow of the group's discussion and the discoveries it makes. But the design makes it possible to know the opportunity costs of these adjustments and hence when it is appropriate to rein in the group and return to the agenda.The final part of the process is post-meeting analysis and documentation of the results and specification of areas requiring action or further analysis. Although the principal findings will be known at the end of the FPE, this post-meeting activity is important because the results will have been quantified, and it is necessary to transcend the numbers and capture in words the reasons for various estimates, the basis of irreducible disagreements, and the areas of greatest uncertainty. Additionally, it may be necessary to perform special analyses to distill the full implications of these results.Cross-impact analysis is an advanced form of forecasting that builds upon the results achieved through the various subjective and objective methods described in the preceding pages. Although as many as 16 distinct types of cross-impact analysis models have been identified (Linstone 1983), an idea common to each is that separate and explicit account is taken of the causal connections among a set of forecasted developments (perhaps derived by genius forecasting or Delphi). Among some futures researchers, a model that includes only the interactions of events is called a cross-impact model. A model that includes only the interactions of events on forecasted trends but not the impacts of the events on each other is called a "trend impact analysis" (TIA) model. In the general case, however, cross-impact analysis" is increasingly coming to refer to models in which event-to-event and event-to-trend impacts are considered simultaneously. Constructing such a model involves estimating how the occurrence of each event in the set might affect ("impact") the probability of occurrence of every other event in the set as well as the nominal forecast of each of the trends. (These nominal trend forecasts may be derived through mathematical trend extrapolation or subjective projections.) When these relationships have been specified, it then becomes possible to let events"happen"--either randomly in accordance with their estimated probability or in some prearrangedway--and then trace out a distinct, plausible, and internally consistent future. Importantly, it also becomes possible to introduce policy choices into the model to explore their potential value.


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My company, The International Retreat Professionals (IRP) is an event planning company that caters to companies outside of the United States....

Operational Plan Product/service development Customers seek event planners to assist in some aspect of an event, whether that event is celebration, business conference, promotion or rallies, or commemorations.