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Navigating Regulatory Landscapes: Four Sights to advance regulatory practice and governance

8 November 2023

News and media


This guest editorial for the ANZSOG-auspiced National Regulators Community of Practice (NRCoP) has been written by Rob Warner, Chief Advisor Strategy, Maritime New Zealand and Dr Grant Pink, RECAP Consultants and Pracademic Advisor to the NRCoP.

Pressure is building on 21st century regulators to work in new ways – and they are being asked to integrate different perspectives, to anticipate and adapt to emerging challenges.

Having effective regulatory stewardship and governance arrangements in place, and building a 360˚ system view to enable timely, proportionate responses to issues that may scale rapidly – are becoming ‘must have’ capabilities for many regulators.

Therefore, new tools are needed for new times. And one way to help cope with the inherent uncertainty of fast-changing regulatory environments and to support sense-making and extending options for decision makers – is for regulators to have consideration of and sensitivity to:

  • past patterns;
  • present circumstances; and
  • plausible futures.

Coherently drawing together an agencies’ hindsight, insight, and foresight to enhance regulatory oversight – is one way of growing both capability and future readiness.

‘… We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us …’. [i]


In our upcoming webinar presentation, we will provide an overview of what we consider to be the benefits of the Four Sights (4Sights) – for regulators wanting to advance regulatory practice, regulatory delivery, and regulatory governance.

The webinar will consider how the 4Sights can be used, individually and in combination, to support regulators, and regulatory staff to:

  • better sense-make and act within their operating environments;
  • more effectively perform, manage, and lead regulatory, compliance, and enforcement activities; and
  • help contextualise and articulate their regulatory and enforcement work, irrespective of whether that work is tactical, operational, or strategic in nature.

Outlining the 4Sights

Hindsight is:

  • often used by regulators to help explain how a regulatory role, regulatory function, or regulatory process – came to be and is now;
  • a rear facing sight, and one that often will be framed as Honouring the past.

Insight is:

  • often used by regulators to help explain how a regulatory role, regulatory function, or regulatory process – is operating presently; and
  • a neutral (neither a rear nor forward) present facing sight, and one that often will be framed as Orienting to the present.

Foresight is:

  • often used by regulators to help explain how a regulatory role, regulatory function, or regulatory process – might be performed and undertaken in the future; and
  • a forward-facing sight, and one that often will be framed as Positioning for the future.

Oversight is:

  • in this regulatory context, is intended to be framed as an ‘oversight’ (in terms of accountability and governance, and not in terms of what has potentially been missed or overlooked, although that could be part of it) of regulatory role, regulatory function, or regulatory process – is operating presently, and into the near and next operating environments.
  • an overarching sight, and one that often will be framed as Sustaining the system for now, near, and next.

HOPS – a framework and acronym to help embed the 4Sights into your regulatory thinking

  • Honouring the past;
  • Orienting to the present;
  • Positioning for the future; and
  • Sustaining the system

Overview of the 4Sights – introducing HIFO


HIFO Infographic

© Rob Warner & Grant Pink (2023)


4Sights pilot workshops

In October 2023 we ran two 4Sight pilot workshops in Wellington. The first was a half-day and was delivered at the introductory level, for 26 international regulators. The second was a full day and was at an intermediate level, for 14 New Zealand regulators.

This 4Sights Workshops are underpinned by three concepts and six principles that operationalise what can be referred to as the ‘anticipatory approach to regulation’ – when combined these concepts and principles provide one way that regulatory agencies can build resilience in the face of uncertainty and improve future-readiness.

The three concepts are:

  • Anticipatory – seeing and framing opportunities and threats in new insightful ways before and as they emerge;
  • Agile – mobilising and redeploying resources rapidly and efficiently to mitigate risks and realise benefits; and
  • Adaptive – being aware of the dynamic changes in the operating environment, evolving practice and adapting strategic and operational delivery in response to new contexts.

These concepts combine to form The AAA Triple Peak (the AAA) [ii] model which support effective oversight, operational positioning, and regulatory stewardship as ‘regulatory landscapes’ change.

The AAA Triple Peak Model

Adapted from Spitz & Zuin (2022, p. 148) [ii]

The six principles, outlined in the image below, are core components of the NESTA Anticipatory regulation model https://apo.org.au/node/324861.

Anticipatory Regulation Model

Armstrong, Gorst, & Rae (2019, p.5) [iii]

These principles [iv] combine to provide useful insights into a regulator’s outward facing, ‘regulatory posture’. [v]


The 4Sights provide an opportunity for regulators and regulatory practitioners to change, enhance or augment their mindsets, skillsets, and toolsets – which for regulatory professionals in an emerging and evolving regulatory profession forms an important part of their reflexive practice and iterative improvement.

The 4Sights enable sense-making across ‘regulatory landscapes’ by using these temporal perspectives to help develop better ‘maps’ to ‘navigate’ by, and then support decision making towards the ‘next right moves’ at a tactical, operational, and strategic level.

Please join us for the webinar to learn more about the 4Sights, specifically in terms of:

  • ‘What’ they are – individually and collectively;
  • ‘Why’ they are important – for regulatory practice and regulatory governance, and
  • ‘How’ they can be applied – to assist with regulatory delivery and regulatory stewardship.


Article prepared by:

Rob Warner, Chief Advisor Strategy, Maritime New Zealand.

Rob has worked across the NZ Government for over 30 years, and is a highly experienced strategist, certified strategic foresight and applied complexity (Cynefin) practitioner, Crown entity governance advisor, neuro leadership coach and group facilitator.

Rob is an alumnus of the: Oxford Executive Scenario programme (Säid Business School, Oxford); Harvard Business School strategic negotiation course; and the University of Houston executive strategic foresight programme.

For the last 6 years Rob has worked closely with the Maritime New Zealand Board and Executive Leadership Team advising on enterprise and regulatory strategy development, and ways to transform complexity into opportunity (over now, near, and next horizons).

Rob is part of a growing international network of Government foresight professionals, a member of the New Zealand Government Regulatory Initiative (G-Reg) community, and a passionate advocate of applied strategic, decision support and sense-making frameworks to help navigate uncertainty in a range of regulatory and policy settings.

Dr Grant Pink, Pracademic Advisor, ANZSOG National Regulators Community of Practice (NRCoP), Managing Director RECAP Consultants, and Adjunct Professor (Regulation and Enforcement) University of Tasmania.

Grant has more than 25 years regulatory and enforcement experience spanning practitioner, management, executive, academic, and consultancy roles, operating at local, state, national and international levels.

Grant has written more than thirty articles for practitioner and academic publications in the areas of regulatory practice, capacity building, networking, and collaboration. In 2021 he authored the book Navigating Regulatory Language: An A to Z Guide.

Academically Grant has a MA by research, which considered regulatory and enforcement networks (2010), and a PhD which considered how regulators build, maintain, and sustain regulatory capability and capacity (2017). In 2016 Grant founded RECAP Consultants Pty Ltd (RECAP). RECAP is a specialist regulatory consultancy providing services domestically and internationally.


i Attributed to Father John Culkin, S.J. (1967) who was a Professor of Communication at Fordham University in New York.

ii Spitz, R. & Zuin, L. (2022). The Definitive Guide to Thriving on Disruption – Essential Frameworks for Disruption and Uncertainty (Volume II). Disruptive Futures Institute: San Francisco.

iii Armstrong, H., Gorst, C., & Rae, J. (2019). Renewing regulation – ‘Anticipatory regulation’ in an age of disruption. NESTA: London. https://apo.org.au/node/324861

iv For additional information on the six principles, see page 5 of Armstrong, Gorst, & Rae 2019, noting that each principle is considered in substantial further detail over a page or more, including through vignette case studies.

v For additional information on the three (primary, secondary, and tertiary) tensions that shape a regulator’s ‘regulatory posture’, see pages 231-232 of Pink, G. (2021). Navigating Regulatory Language: An A to Z Guide. RECAP Consultants: Canberra.