Sure exercise

SURE stands for Scan Understand, Respond, Experiment.

It’s an exercise that helps organisations conquer the uncertainty of the future.

It helps to have a methodology to identify and manage your strategic risks. One such exercise is Cortant’s Strategic Uncertainty Risk Exercise™ (SURE). There are four elements, as shown in Figure 1.2. They’re simple to describe, but less easy achieve.

Scan: the business must be on the lookout for threats to its survival and the potential for disruption. This is ‘healthy paranoia’. If the organisation doesn’t have that fear, it may be lulled into a false state of security. Scanning involves systematic search and research, into raw materials; technologies; customer behaviours and needs; processes, channels, markets and products.

Understand: You need to make sense of all the information. Not every threat is of a strategic level, and not every threat will come to pass. Some risks will affect one business but not another. When you’re operationally engaged it isn’t easy to stand back and see which risks are the important ones. You need to evaluate possible responses to the risks and opportunities that you have identified.

Will traditional universities be overtaken by online colleges? Will the high street lose its retailers? Will energy companies lose out to home-generated power? Will paper suppliers be affected by electronic paper? The difficulty is to determine which risks will actually happen, and how they will affect your business.

Respond. When threats have been identified, the senior team must be able to take rapid action. Leaving things a year or more may seal its fate. How fast can the business create change? As we see in Chapter Two, many businesses are weighed down by corporate systems. The procedures and controls that help an organisation avoid its mundane risks may impede its ability to create change. Decisiveness leads to future survival.

Experiment. The organisation needs to test a range of new ideas. Not all will work. But failing to innovate is a guaranteed route to failure. You need to invest in those areas that could be the future of your industry. Failure to carry the exercise through to live practical experiments is a sign of future failure.


Figure 1.2: The SURE route to survival