Foresighting skills to design and implement adaptive practices

Crawford School of Public Policy | Executive course
Policy Essentials


Back from the future: How to use foresight and systems thinking to develop adaptive capacity

The capacity to make decisions in a rapidly changing, complex and uncertain operating landscape is becoming increasingly challenging. Much of what we witness is unpredictable and becoming increasingly difficult to manage. Leaders and managers in government and business need new frameworks and processes to better understand complexity and uncertainty. These frameworks and processes will enable them to develop and lead adaptive organisations so as to respond to the adaptive nature of business and society.

This course enables participants to build their current and future capability and expertise to better understand complexity and uncertainty and develop programs and processes that will support adaptation within the organisation and the society that they serve. The course will present the principles and practices of system thinking and scenario planning as two key methodologies that will serve as critical decision-support tools in developing adaptive practices and inform strategy and policy development to enhance organisational performance.

Systems thinking will assist decision-makers to develop maps of the dynamics that are shaping the policy landscape from which they gain a deep understanding of the key factors and the relationships between them that are shaping the policy landscape. These maps provide the source information to undertake strategic conversations that wrestle with the non-linear complexity that shapes the policy issue. Scenario planning provides a methodology that challenges beliefs and assumptions about the policy issue. The process assists policy and strategy developers to study the nature of uncertainty and take the insights gained, to inform policy and strategy from the future.

See related:
- Emergent leadership series (extended)
- Strategic thinking and planning in a complex and uncertain world
- Adaptive thinking for complex policy development

Course overview

Topics to be covered:

  • An overview of the nature of change, complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity; and
  • An overview of the concepts and principles of systems thinking, complex adaptive systems;
  • An overview of foresight work and the practices of scenario planning;

Workshop structure:

  • Examples and case studies are presented prior to presentation of theory to provide the participant with experiences that they can relate to
  • Theory and frameworks are presented to assist the participant to make sense of their experience
  • Exercises, group discussions and stories presented by the participant as a means to make sense of the theory are encouraged and supported.
  • In small groups, participants will nominate a topic to work through the steps of developing scenarios to deepen their understanding of the principles and concepts.

Learning outcomes include:

  • Participants attending the course will have new ways of perceiving and thinking about complex and uncertain policy environments
  • The course will provide the capability to develop the content to lead and manage for adaptation to a changing business environment;
  • The capability to develop and share new narratives that impact on cultural change, policy and strategy development;
  • Learn the skills and techniques of foresight work that will assist to inform policy and strategy development and address a range of other issues; and
  • The capacity to challenge belief systems about the dynamics of the business landscape and the implications this may have on the direction of the organisation and its consequential performance

Anticipated behavioural and business impacts include:

  • Participants will have the processes and knowledge that will enhance their confidence to tackle uncertainty and complexity;
  • Participants will have the information and knowledge that will support new conversations within the business that lead to new insights. These insights will support the development of informed decision-making;
  • Participants will tend to work more as a team to explore the nature of the system under study. They will identify key driving forces shaping the system and consider the complexity around those driving forces. A series of conversations would lead to suggested strategic responses given the complexity and uncertainty that will shape the system under study.
  • Participants will be able to support informed decision-making for policy and strategy development

Who should attend?

  • Any sector that needs to understand the nature of its business environment and develop an organised response with the capacity to identify emerging trends and be able to respond to them
  • Policy development and implementation business units
  • This course is suitable for APS6 - SES, or equivalent level.

Course presenter(s)

Dr Gary Saliba

Dr Gary Saliba is the Director of Strategic Journeys, a management consulting company that assists in strategy development work within organisations.

The unique role of Gary and his company is the integration of complex adaptive systems thinking with future studies and strategy development. This approach has enabled him to consult extensively across a range of government and commercial enterprises. Gary has developed organisational strategy that is based on plausible futures, using the scenario development methodology.

Gary’s approach is to work with people to enhance their processes in understanding their organisation’s operating environment and their own ways of operating. This leads to more informed decision-making and improved responsiveness and flexibility in an increasingly complex environment.

Gary holds a BSc(Hons), PhD in Applied Mathematics and Dip Ed from the University of Sydney. He is a Fellow of the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation.Dr Gary Saliba is Director of Strategic Journeys, a management consulting company, which assists people in organisations in strategy development work.

Previous positions include:

  • CEO- Regional Development Australia- Murray Region
  • Manager Australian Taxation Office
  • Projects Officer and participant on the Middle Managers Program- Department of Defence
  • Manager, Ionospheric Prediction Service- Department of Administrative Services

Updated:  27 October 2021/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team