If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that the future is unpredictable, and even the best strategic plans can fall prey to forces beyond our control. But that doesn’t mean you should abandon planning entirely—far from it! An unpredictable world calls for plans that meet change head-on with actions that carry your organization through whatever forces come your way—whether those are positive market changes or global pandemics.
Of course, trying to figure out exactly what kind of forces you might encounter on the way to meeting your goals and objectives is challenging. Few people accurately predict recessions, market-disrupting technologies, global pandemics, or geopolitical conflicts. And there are always smaller, more local crises to keep things interesting. After all, if your business is in Florida, it’s a good bet you’ll need to plan for a hurricane at some point! But it’s impossible to know exactly what forces your business might encounter, and while planning is essential, weathering these events also requires agility and adaptability.
Looking at all of these possibilities is what we call “scenario planning.” In scenario planning, we take the time to explore a variety of possibilities that your business may encounter—anything from competitor advancements to potential supply chain issues to—yes—global pandemics. We then choose the two most likely scenarios and create plans around those to tie them back to your overall strategy. In addition to giving you concrete plans to deploy in the event of disruption, scenario planning also enhances your company’s agility and ability to adapt to the unexpected.
Remember, strategy isn’t the same as “objectives” or “actions.” Rather, strategy is what exists between action and objectives—the positioning that takes your company from a list of actions to ultimate outcomes, goals, or objectives. So while defining strategy is one exercise, and one that is absolutely necessary, strategy is more of a lens that gives you a high-level perspective on everything your organization might encounter. Once you’ve defined strategy and your strategic action plan, then it’s time to create an action list within that strategic framework that you can quickly deploy if and when any of those scenarios emerge.
As you create your strategic action list, keep these four things in mind to ensure that your action items are driving the outcomes your strategy calls for:
Understand exactly What Your Scenario List Will Solve
With multiple potential scenarios that could impact your business, it’s possible that you may need more than one strategic action list. Of course, you don’t want to dilute your overall efforts or focus on things that may be less likely to occur, so narrow down the scenarios to the most likely ones. Then create a strategic action list that addresses the most important scenarios. As they are working through this process, organizations often find that the same action needs to be taken in multiple scenarios, or they identify a key action that increases their ability to adapt to a range of circumstances. Prioritize those actions as you move forward for the greatest return on investment.
Create the list in preparation for a scenario instead of waiting until after it's happened
Companies that already had cloud communication solutions and hybrid work models in place before 2020 had the easiest pivot to pandemic work models when offices shut down. While they probably didn’t specifically plan for a global pandemic, they did have the foresight to think about disruptions and recognize that cloud solutions would give them increased flexibility and better business continuity. Preparing for general disruption enabled their ability to adapt quickly when the pandemic hit.
Have Multiple Plans for Difference Situation Outcomes
It’s not only events that are unpredictable; it’s also outcomes. For example, some companies experienced unexpected levels of growth in the middle of the pandemic and found themselves struggling with increased demand and not enough workers. To some extent, those are “good” problems to have, even in a pandemic, but they can still present obstacles to growth if approached in the wrong way. Make plans that allow for the unexpected within the unexpected.
Communicate Details of the Strategic Action List with all Necessary Parties
Make sure all of your key leaders know what their responsibilities are within your strategic action plan—and just as importantly, make sure they know what their action items are toward achieving your organizational objectives.
As important as a strategic action plan is, the action list within your plan is possibly more important. It can help clarify responsibilities, drive action in specific ways toward the same objectives, and improve your company’s agility in the face of the unexpected. To get started, contact us to learn more about our strategic planning services.