Chapter 5. Career Options - Great Ways to Be a Foresight Leader

IV. Departmental Practice Options in the Firm

Common Business Functions (Career Svcs, U. Kent)

Common Business Functions (Career Svcs, U. Kent)

To understand your practice options, it helps to know a little about each of the classic organizational departments, some foresight functions commonly associated with them, and a few examples of exemplary foresight work that has been conducted in various departments to date. There is no definitive list of organizational departments, as they differ by industry, firm structure, and goals. Nevertheless, business texts usually introduce a common set, such as this set of fifteen (picture right) by the Career Services group at the University of Kent in the UK.

Below is our list of twelve classic departments, with names in dark red. Under each department we have also grouped one or more of the Twenty Foresight Functions introduced in Chapter 1. These functions are again listed in gold to discriminate them from other useful business functions that also contribute to foresight but are not among our core twenty. We’ve tried to place the Twenty Functions into their most typical departmental homes, but this is just one possible arrangement. Organizations vary greatly in their use and management of foresight, and in practice, every department or team may use any of the Twenty Functions for their work.

Team Product, and Market Fit (Dave Kashen,, 2012)

Team Product, and Market Fit
(Dave Kashen,, 2012)

The twelve departments in turn are grouped into the classic Team, Product, and Market divisions, popularized by venture capitalist Don Valentine at Sequoia Capital in the 1970s. When assessing the investment potential of an organization, many modern venture capitalists look at the “fit” of three key components: the Team/Leadership’s abilities and experience, the cost and quality of its Product or Service, and how well that product or service meets Market/Customer need. These three divisions thus offer a simple model of the firm. They exist in tension with each other, and may even compete for influence and resources. Think of management vs. product or service engineering vs. sales in a typical firm.

The use of each of the Twenty Foresight Functions usually happens in different ways in all three divisions of the firm. For one example, consider Planning: Most organizations will benefit from a leadership-guided strategic plan, a product or service management plan, and a good marketing plan. How to balance foresight activities and resources among these three divisions is never obvious, and is much more art than science. Seeing the different ways foresight works across the firm is the first step to being able to use the kind of foresight needed for the problem at hand. Let’s look now at a departmental model for how these divisions, departments, and foresight functions commonly associate in the modern firm.

Three Divisions, Twelve Departments, and Twenty Foresight Functions of the Firm

  1. General Management Division
    1. Top Management/Leadership/Admin/Strategy/Alliances/M&A/Change Mgmt/Entrepreneurship
      Scorecards/Strategy(Strategic Visioning)/Change Management/Entrepreneurship
    2. Metrics & Planning/Finance/Accounting/Reporting/Analysis/Budgeting
    3. Security & Risk Management/Health & Safety/Legal/Intellectual Property/Insurance
      Intelligence(Scanning)/Risk Management/Law & Security
    4. Human Resources/Hiring/Compensation/Performance Mgmt/Learning & Development
      Performance Mgmt/Learning & Development/Idea Generation
  2. Product and Service Division
    1. Operations/Product, Service & Project Management/Engineering/Automation/Quality Assurance
      Product,  Service, & Project Management/Quality
    2. Sourcing/Purchasing/Supply Chain/Contracting/Logistics/Inventory
    3. ICT & Knowledge Management/Hardware/Software/Social Networks
    4. Research & Development/Innovation/Design
      Innovation Management/Design
  3. Market Division
    1. Sales/Business Development
    2. Marketing/Market Research
      Marketing Management
    3. Customer Service/Customer Relations Management/Customer Feedback
    4. Community Relations/Public Relations/Communications/Corporate Social Responsibility

Note that fifteen of the Twenty Foresight Functions identified earlier can be grouped under the Leadership (Top Management) division in our three division model of the firm. These fifteen are relatively balanced across the four core executive departments: Top Management (4 functions), Metrics & Planning (5 functions), Security (3 functions), and Human Resources (3 functions). As said earlier, foresight may arise and be initially championed by anyone in the firm, but it is ultimately the leadership (top management team) that determines how much and where foresight is used in most organizations, especially over the long term.

Without strong foresight capacity and commitment at the top, its survival at the departmental level will always be uncertain, and its value unclear. Foresight consultants who understand this, and who do careful assessment of top management’s foresight culture, can strike at the root of foresight problems in many companies, rather than doing work that ends up being ignored, unimplemented, unnecessary, or otherwise a waste of effort. As mentioned in Chapter 1, there is often declining marginal value and growing marginal cost to the use of any particular foresight skill or method. Knowing when you’ve done enough is as important as knowing when and where to start. It is top leadership that must continually frame the foresight work to be done, decide whether marginal foresight is worth pursuing, and assess its real value after the fact.

Let’s explore each of the twelve departments a bit more now, and briefly discuss the Twenty Functions and related foresight activities in their departmental contexts. We’ll return to the Twenty again in Chapter 4, as we consider them in the context of Adaptive Foresight, our preferred model for professional foresight work.

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