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Vision-led strategic planning for an uncertain world

Future Uncertainty Toolkit for Understanding and Responding to an Evolving Society

The world is changing – fast. The climate emergency. Remote working. Digitalisation. The need for resilience and social transformation. In the face of such uncertainty, planning for the future by looking in the rear-view mirror is no longer adequate. We need strong, vision-led planning to achieve more robust decision making.

FUTURES is an approach that has been designed to support decision making at the strategic planning stage. It helps you to decide on the future you want and enables you to draw up an effective strategy to get there that can accommodate the uncertainties that are outside of your control. FUTURES can help you to respond to uncertainty with the right policies, stakeholder engagement, technologies and organisational capabilities, to secure investment and direct it to best effect, and to maximise your chances of achieving success for your customers and for society.

FUTURES is a six stage approach:

1. Gearing up

The preparatory stage helps you to understand the overall FUTURES approach and its underlying philosophy. We appreciate the importance of you and your stakeholders being able to have some initial engagement to determine whether FUTURES is right for your needs.

2. Preferred futures

In this stage we ask you to pay particular attention to the centrality of the ‘triple access system’ in deciding on the future you want. The ability to access people, goods, services and opportunities underpins economic prosperity and social wellbeing. Access is not only delivered by transport, but through land use and telecommunications systems; we believe your vision should reflect this.

3. Opening out

The next stage guides you through a scenario planning exercise to understand plausible future contexts faced by the strategy you develop. By exposing the extent of uncertainty and later addressing this, you will be able to improve the robustness of your forward planning significantly.

4. Options

You are likely to be familiar with options generation. In this stage we work with you to develop a strong set of options that help set a direction of travel towards realising your vision. We draw upon our global business to gather options of relevance from elsewhere. In turn we work with you to generate your own options, mindful of their fit with your vision and with a more developed understanding of future uncertainties and potential change ahead.

5. Closing down

This stage helps you to examine how your options individually and in combination could perform in different futures. Do they align well across all scenarios in terms of achieving the outcomes you seek, or is alignment poor in some scenarios suggesting associated risk? We can provide you with a policy option testing tool. This is a means of enabling you and your stakeholders to identify the options that you are most confident will address your vision and should therefore be included in your strategy. Communication is a key aspect of this stage.

6. Review

Putting in place regular monitoring and being prepared to periodically review and, if necessary, revise your strategy in light of new evidence and signals of change is the final stage. This may involve re-running parts of the approach (perhaps in a lighter touch way). Such re-running may also be helpful as your staff and stakeholders change over time.

Our FUTURES Relay is helping cities across the globe draw up a vision for net-zero transport, and work out how to pursue it in the face of uncertainty.

Mott MacDonald proudly sponsored the 2019 Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation's Learned Society Lecture. Hear Mott MacDonald's professor of future mobility, Glenn Lyons, discuss a new approach to planning for the future of mobility.

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