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Environmental Scanning—An External Perspective

Environmental scanning is the process through which organizations maintain awareness of the opportunities and threats presented by the surroundings—both macro and micro—within which they operate.

For information that is obtained through an environmental scan to be truly valuable, leaders within the organization must use the data that is collected to modify—as appropriate—organizational objectives or strategies. The ability to demonstrate organizational agility in response to environmental information is essential; the willingness to act upon that information is perhaps even more important.

Some organizations conduct environmental scans on an ad hoc basis, often in response to crises or other unexpected events. Other organizations plan to conduct environmental scans on a more regular basis. Still other organizations choose to conduct scanning on a continuous basis—always collecting, processing, and analyzing data. While there is no one right answer for every organization, in today’s highly turbulent (and sometimes even volatile) business and organizational environments, it may be prudent to consider conducting environmental scanning more frequently, as opposed to less frequently.

External Trends—Things to Keep an Eye On

Organizations need to monitor trends of a wide and varying nature, including, but in no way limited to

  • Economic trends
  • Competitive trends
  • Political trends
  • Global trends
  • Business trends
  • Industry trends
  • Employment trends
  • Technological trends
  • Demographic trends
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