Over the last few months, it seems like one of the only constants in the world has been: change. From helping my sales team adjust to a work-from-home model, to refining our team’s expense management, to navigating the shifting market, it has been an absolute rollercoaster.
Despite the challenges that arose, I think it is more important to acknowledge that there have been ample opportunities to learn, evolve, and persevere through these uncertain times. After observing these last few months, however, I have recognized where our team was maybe underprepared or not positioned to take full advantage of certain opportunities. This is what led me to start studying the idea of ‘scenario planning’.
Scenario planning is used by organizations to, more or less, help guide them into the future. The idea is to lay out a variety of future possible outcomes, while also recognizing where the organization stands today. In a sense, scenario planning marries the imagination with reality. While these various scenarios are not predictions, they can provide you and your team with a deeper sense of knowledge and self-awareness in approaching the (uncertain) future.
In this type of planning, it can be easy to get caught up in the next big opportunity — the next big ‘what if’ — and jump so far ahead that you overlook the little details that could occur along the way. To ensure that all possible outcomes are accounted for and solutions are strategically outlined, there are some key guidelines to follow when scenario planning.
Identify Your ‘Who(s)’
It is important to bring together individuals from different parts of the team in order to get various perspectives on future scenarios. By curating a diverse group, you will be able to look at the possible scenarios and understand the impact they may have on different areas of the business — sales, operations, accounting, etc. Additionally, these individuals will bring personal experiences and beliefs to the table that could aid in shaping future scenarios.
Outline All Possible Futures
This is the part of the exercise where your imagination is vital. Come up with all possible, yet realistic, scenarios that could happen over the course of time (6 months, one year, 10 years). Some of these scenarios may seem far-fetched or maybe even impossible, however you will still want to include them. After you and your team have identified all possible scenarios, you may choose to just focus on a few and go from there.
Develop Strategies for the Future(s)
Once you and your team have come up with various ‘futures’, the next step is to identify possible strategies and solutions, to not only survive, but thrive through each scenario. Think about what resources or tools you may need to invest in, or what expansion opportunities may make sense to explore. For each scenario, ask the question: “what should we be doing in our business today to ensure that we are better prepared for this future scenario?”
While this step may seem simple, it is often the one that is the most overlooked. After your team has identified strategies for preparing for all possible futures, it is time to put them into play. Understand that implementing these strategies will take time and will not happen overnight; it will require a long-term focus and commitment.
Don’t become married or dead-set on each scenario or the strategies you have implemented. Our world will continue to change, and in order to stay relevant, your scenarios and strategies will need to change as well. Get your team together on a regular basis to revisit these scenarios and reevaluate the strategies; get together monthly, quarterly, or yearly. You may also choose to bring new individuals onto the team to provide a fresh perspective.
In a world of uncertainty, while scenario planning may not leave you feeling 100% certain about what the future holds, it will provide you with a sense of reassurance that you are prepared for whatever opportunity comes your way.