Planned Opportunism

Planned Opportunism
HBR, May 2016, p54
By Vijay Govindarajan

Planned Opportunism, according to the article, accomplishes three “things for the enterprise: (1) It creates a circulatory system for new ideas; (2) it develops the capacity to prioritize, investigate, and act on those ideas; and (3) it builds an adaptive culture that embraces continual change.” This article has some good things to say but it is condensed from a book by Govindarajan so it is likely that the book is able to build a more cohesive case for planned opportunism achieving these three things.

What the article suggests is essentially a form of scenario planning: do a deep analysis of all the factors in the organization’s context that affect its operation; identify elusive weak signals that could have a major impact on the enterprise; develop hypotheses about the future; and test the hypotheses with relatively low cost experiments. Scenario planning is a very effective tool for making sense of the future and for providing direction to senior leaders to navigate the perils of the future.

It is not clear from the article that a modified scenario process will result in the three benefits claimed above for the enterprise. Again, this article is adapted from a book by Govindarajan so perhaps that information is in the book. The scenario planning process is worthwhile in and of itself for most organizations and the advice in the article cannot be faulted. Any good scenario planning practitioner can guide executives through the processes described in the article.