Future Strategy Group’s foresight and scenario-planning work with the US Coast Guard was featured in the July-August 2020 edition of the Harvard Business Review. Harvard Business School foresight scholar J. Peter Scoblic takes a deep dive into the Coast Guard’s groundbreaking Long View project, which evolved later into Project Evergreen. Starting with Long View, FSG partnered with the Coast Guard for 15 years in developing scenario-planning tools and programs to help the Service navigate extraordinary change and complexity in the maritime domain, including the 9/11 attacks on the United States
Impressively, the Coast Guard has applied insights from scenario planning across the entire organization, to inform mission planning, hardware acquisitions, infrastructure, human resources, strategic partnerships and R&D investments. Scenario planning has also proved to be a powerful training tool, at all levels of the organization.
Scoblic attributes the Coast Guard’s commitment to an enterprise-wide foresight process to visionary leadership, beginning with then-Commandant James Loy, under whose command Long View was launched. Loy’s idea was for the multi-mission Coast Guard to be always looking over the horizon, anticipating new mission requirements and proactively preparing with the right equipment, systems, doctrine, partnerships and people.
For Loy, and later Adm. Thad Allen, a foresight culture was about building strategic agility. In complex, volatile environments like the maritime domain surprises happen that cannot be planned for. Contending with such uncertainty requires a different, non-linear mindset. Adm. Allen speaks of this as building an organization that both acts and thinks with strategic intent.
Evergreen today is considered the gold standard of foresight and long-term planning in the US government. Private-sector companies struggling to deal with present disruption and future uncertainty should consider applicable lessons from the Coast Guard’s foresight journey. FSG offers an abundance of resources, including the Evergreen doctrine book. And the Scoblic HBR article is a good place to start.