This is the fun part. Foresighting (or horizon scanning as some call it) requires some serious deep thought and strong coffee. What are the macro-events that will impact my organisations? Some examples. The elections in Germany will have ramifications far beyond its borders (by the way stay tuned for our special on the German elections). And from the first of July Slovenia has taken over the ropes EU presidency. What will their program entail? In the Netherlands, after a turbulent start, we expect that a government will be formed by October / November. Is it too late to influence the coalition agreement? The European Commission work programme will come out in October; are we ready for when that hits? And do we have a good overview of the European Commission policy initiatives coming out in Q3 and Q4 (you can find them in last year’s work program). The European Parliament will be at the half of its mandate at the end of this year. This is not only nice to know, but did you know that that is also the only moment Members of the European Parliament can switch from parliamentary committee? If you want to inspire a MEP to change the committee, the coming months are the right moment. In a similar fashion, the mandate of the President of the European Council expires at the end of the year. While I don’t expect Charles Michel to resign, technically it is possible. One way to make sense of this is by reading decent overarching news and analysis. Of course, you could go for the Financial Times and The Economist which serve exactly this purpose, however, why not give Monocle’s Foreign Affairs podcast a try?
Strategic planning; It starts and ends with a timeline
While I do strategic planning for up to one and a half years (obviously these are EU files), normally my horizon is up to six months or in this case until the end of the year. It all starts with a timeline which I divide by the weeks. One professional deformation I picked up in Brussels is that I use the calendar of the European Parliament to sort out the weeks. The first thing is to map out all the external events that are going to take place regardless of any actions on your side. Think parliamentary events, procedural meetings, high-level events, and industrial congresses. A no-brainer is the parliamentary committee meetings. Map out all of these events for the coming six months or at least until the 31st of December. If you are working for a big organisation, relevant internal events and procedural milestones should also be on that timeline. Of course, above mentioned major events like election dates should also be on the list. Also launch dates of policy initiatives, the publication of laws, or consultations by governments should be on your timeline. Finally, map out for the coming half year what actions you are going to undertake. What Members of Parliament are you going to meet? What advocacy events are you going to organize? When are you going to the public an opinion in the Guardian or Politico? I really get a kick out planning an Op-Ed 5 months ahead and then seeing it published. I have made some templates of timelines you can use. For example this sleek one in Excell (well actually Tirza Drent made this one) and Powerpoint (those links will only be valid for a week). I sometimes also use Canva. Final words; when designing a timeline the pitfall is to design it as an action timeline. Rather, see it as a story you are creating. An adventure that lasts six months. This will make sure you also weave elements of the political narrative into the timeline. Plus it’s more fun being part of an adventure than a timeline.