Design of a framework for implementing strategic foresight at South African state owned enterprises

Nyewe, Papomile Mphathi (2011-03)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2011.


In many spheres of life, humanity is finally coming to terms with the fact that our world has changed beyond the limits of our industrial-era ways of thinking. Linear and reductionist approaches to strategy and problem-solving are no longer sufficient for dealing with the realities of our modern world, which are characterised by the certainty of change; not least of all due to technological change and environmental factors such as resource scarcity and global warming. Some of the changes that humanity has experienced include; • Uncertainty about the magnitude and direction of the changes; • Difficulty of visualising contexts and options in an increasingly complex environment, where many of the parts are interdependent, and where the knowledge requirements increasingly transcend traditional disciplines; • Serious and possibly irrevocable consequences of errors in decision-making; • The ability of humanity to adapt and respond to change. Living in sustainable harmony with itself and the biosphere requires that we use systems thinking to mediate between the need for action and the awareness of complexity. These aspects require that we adopt a continuous and adaptive mode of strategy and development, enabling us to shape a better future. As South Africa enters its sixteenth year of democracy, the challenges of unemployment, scarcity of critical skills, a poor education system, growing crime levels and perennial poverty, continue to confront both the state and civil society alike. This study seeks to map the South African government’s long-term and short-term planning frameworks that guide the planning processes and timeframes for all government departments. While the purpose is to determine the long-term planning methodologies and techniques of both Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) and State Owned Enterprises (SOEs), these are informed by the response to the national government planning frameworks, such as the Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) and the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF). The National Planning Commission was established specifically to perform the long-term planning function of government. It is against this background that the researcher examines the long-term planning processes and methodologies of selected DFIs and SOEs, using the Environmental Scanning and Literature Review methodologies. Environmental scanning and literature review methodologies were used to gain a high-level understanding of the long-term planning processes of the national government. A literature review of current and previous long-term planning processes using scenario planning (by Eskom and the CSIR) and foresight (by the CSIR) have provided an indication that, although long-term planning is a desired goal, it is not widely practiced and where it is practiced the results and related impacts are not yet known. A survey of selected SOEs and DFIs was conducted to determine the nature and extent of long range planning undertaken by each of these bodies, as well as the methodologies that were used. The aim was to determine whether foresight tools such as systems thinking and/or scenario planning have been used in the past and what results have been achieved. Without this information, it would not be possible to identify the gaps that exist in the longterm planning frameworks of these entities. The results of the survey revealed that the concept of long-term planning using methodologies such as foresight, scenario planning and systems thinking does not enjoy wide awareness amongst the SOEs, who reported that they do not engage in long-term planning. The study concludes that a need exists for a formal well structured framework for the use of scenario planning and systems thinking as part of the foresight long-term planning methodology in South Africa’s state-owned enterprises. An ideal framework for the introduction and use of long-term planning methodologies is needed in order to seek an answer to the following question: what combination of thinking and planning tools, drawn from Foresight, Scenario Planning and systems thinking could be brought together to create and ideal framework for the introduction and use of long-term planning methodologies at state-owned-enterprises? The study proposes a Six Phase – Foresight and Scenario Planning Framework for longterm planning. This proposed new framework suggests the use of foresight tools such scenario planning and systems thinking. Exposure by the author to multiple foresight driven processes served to provide real life experiences of the potency of the use of these tools in combination during the different phases of the proposed framework. In using the proposed framework, executives at SOEs and DFIs should be able to cope with planning in an environment of uncertainty, while carrying the stakeholders along with them on the journey. The six phases of the process have, in the experience of the researcher, offered tangible benefits to a variety of institutions during the past three years. More than any other benefits, foresight loses its mystic and it becomes easy and accessible to everyone. Action planning, flowing from the foresight process becomes a genuine exercise that impacts on the short to medium term strategic planning taking into account the probable effects of emerging trends, driving forces and likely breakthroughs that leaders in SOEs and DFIs can bring about as they strive to create their preferred future.

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