Scenario Planning: Why Now, Here’s How

We’re into the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic. Businesses and consumers are slowly re-boarding, increasingly reengaging the marketplace and revving up the economic engine.
Yet it remains a time of great uncertainty and there is still a wide range of possible outcomes. The virus might gradually subside and life could return to close to what it was. Or, like SARS, the virus might disappear altogether. Or the reopening of society could result in a second wave of infections and deaths causing us to return to the policies and practices of March and April. Or, or, or …
How do you plan for what to do when what to do is so contingent?
Scenario planning. Scenario planning is a strategy tool that applies especially well in times of uncertainty. Essentially, the idea is to plan for multiple scenarios when your confidence in any one scenario is low. Here, in a simplified form, are the basic steps:

  1. Scenarios – Identify up to three, top-priority scenarios considering the likelihood and impact of a broader range of scenarios. For example, you might decide that a second wave of infections is quite likely and that the impact would be serious. That might be one of your scenarios. Or, instead, you might choose to identify a best-case scenario, worst-case scenario, and most-likely-case scenario.
  2. Triggers – Identify the triggers that would cause you to take significant action given each scenario. In the second wave of infections scenario, you might decide that a sustained increase of infections by “x” percent over “y” amount of time would cause you to take action.
  3. Actions – Consider alternatives and identify the best course of action for each trigger. Would the rate-of-infections trigger, for example, cause you to cease in-person sales calls and revert exclusively to virtual calls?

These three steps provide a structured way to anticipate and plan for top-priority scenarios before you get caught up in the heat of the battle.
Yes, these are uncertain times. And you can mitigate the risks. This is the time for scenario planning.
Make it happen. 
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