Most people do not have a very distant time horizon – a couple of years, at most. But sustainable, strategic planning often requires us to look much further into the future. Strategic projections based on time horizons beyond five years are however frequently met with scepticism in the organisation.
- FutureMap makes it possible to develop multi-annual strategic plans that will be embraced with enthusiasm.
- This data can also be used by futures researchers and strategic planners wanting to define a temporal limit for horizon scanning and trend analysis.
- It is a multi-measure method, with an internal validity check, and is based on a clear model of Time Perspective , which makes clear the conceptual relationships between the various dimensions.
The context of the water sector is changing continuously. At the same time, individual organizations within the sector are striving to be sustainable. Some strategies require flexibility and adaptive capacity. But if frequent adaptation is costly, as with investments in infrastructure, then robust solutions are required. Preparedness can play an important role in efficiently solving impeding problems and benefitting optimally from emerging opportunities. An activity is generally considered to be sustainable if it can be continued for the foreseeable future; that is, indefinitely.
But what span of the future can one claim to foresee and how might the limits of the foreseeable be defined?
It turns out that these limits differ significantly across national cultures and, even more so, across professions.
Why is this important? The decisions people make, and the actions they take, depend on how they conceptualize and deal with the foreseeable future.
Someone making long-term plans for a Drinking Water Company asks themselves whether the chosen milestones will motivate the people who are responsible for realizing the plans.
A planner working for a water board or government division asks themself what time horizon they need to focus on for directing strategic horizon scanning activities to signal emerging opportunities and threats in a timely fashion.
At a research institute a planner asks themself which research questions should be prioritized – fundamental research might not produce market-ready solutions on the short-term but growing knowledge and developing tools takes time so waiting to invest in research until the problems have arisen is seldom the best approach.
What is an appropriate time-horizon for expecting return on investments?
To answer each of these questions insight into the temporal extent of the foreseeable future, and that of the objects which motivate people’s decisions and actions, is exceedingly useful.
With the FutureMap tool you can quantify the foreseeable future of your organization both in terms of certainty and temporal extent using a proven method.
How does it work?
FutureMap is an online questionnaire for characterising, both quantitatively and qualitatively, the dimensions of an individual’s Time Perspective that influence what motivates his or her work-related decisions and actions.
Scientists tend to be motivated by objects that lie furthest into the future, followed by managers and then practical workers. Insight into this dimension is valuable, because the time horizons people consider influence what problems they perceive, what questions they ask, and what solutions they seek.
If the average time horizon of what motivates a given group is known, then longer term plans can be phased using stages that match the motivational space of those involved.
Let’s say that the questionnaire reveals that the time horizon of the average manager in your organisation is 4 years. This means you can phase your strategic plan in 3.5-year stages, allowing your managers to maintain a overview of the whole period and remain motivated. Your given group’s time horizon will also be taken into account in the trend analyses.
The questionnaire has 5 steps with open questions, Likert scales and instructions for using visual metaphors to illustrate how certain abstract ideas are conceptualized. Instructions on how to complete the questionnaire are included in the tool.
- The tool only works with interviewees who do not know that the purpose of the tool is to measure their Time Perspective. The steps have also been ordered to ensure that the interviewees cannot manipulate their answers; this is why it is essential that the later steps remain unknown until earlier ones have been completed.
- At least 20 individuals from a given group, as defined by professional role (practical worker/ manager/ scientist) and national culture, need to have completed the questionnaire to produce data that can be used to make statistically significant conclusions.
Each step focuses on a specific aspect, summarized as follows:
Step 1: Define Motivational Objects
The interviewees note down their most important goals and future events, each on a separate online post-it sticker.
Step 2: Characterize Structure and Orientation
The interviewees symbolize their concept of time, using two adapted versions of Cottle’s Circles Test and an arrow showing the path of time. A textual legend is included to explain each illustration.
Step 3: Measure Temporal Extension
The interviewees locate the post-it stickers from Step 1 in chronological order on a time line that represents the arrow showing the path of time that was drawn in Step 2.*
Step 4: Direct Questions
Five direct questions by completion of sentences are used to check and supplement the results from the indirect methods used in steps 1 – 3.
Step 5: Inventory characterising Orientation
The interviewees specify their level of agreement on a 5-point Likert Scale for 30 items.**
Once an interviewee has completed all 5 steps, an output file is produced in MS Excel with 1 row per interviewee and 40 measures of Time perspective – one per column.
*Adapted version of Rapaport’s Time Line
** Including the Future Perspective items from the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory and the entire Consideration of Future Consequences Scale.
There are several forms of support available to ensure that you optimize your use of FutureMap and that you are updated on all the latest developments. Specifically, you can make use of the following options to suit your particular situation:
- A 1-day introductory course for researchers to allow them to understand the tool’s output data. The course will explain the Time Perspective model that the tool is designed around.
- Data analysis by a specialist and translated into a brief document reporting the most noteworthy and useful results.
- Consultancy services, concerning how the results can be used in practice, e.g., for strategic planning or futures research.
- Access to FutureMap related projects or research.
Mentioned in: 2 Publications and 1 PhD Thesis
Enrolled in: 100+ Cases in 4 Countries
- Segrave, A.J., van der Zouwen, M.W., van Vierssen, W.
"Water Planning: from what Time Perspective? Technological Forecasting and Social Change."
Accepted for Publication. DOI: 10.1016/j.techfore.2013.08.019>
- Segrave, A.J., Wen, B., van der Zouwen, M.W., van Vierssen, W.
"Who are the aliens actually? Mapping problem perception in the water sector."
- Segrave, A.J.
"Time to Change: Revealing the Foreseeable Future for Water Planning."