I think we can all agree, nothing in the workplace is certain. Is it time for leadership teams to say goodbye to strategic planning? Annual meetings to change dates on strategies not achieved or add new strategies in place of those completed just doesn’t make sense. One of the most significant downfalls of strategic planning in today’s turbulent marketplace is that the process often fails to consider future changes in the environment. I am not suggesting that leaders need to accept gambling their company’s future or only rely on short-term planning. I am suggesting that a new approach to strategic planning is desperately needed. Leadership teams need an approach that can account for the volatility, uncertainty, and complexity in the marketplace.
Scenario planning is a decision-making tool to explore and understand a variety of issues impacting organizations. Since we cannot predict the future, both learning and preparation are essential. The goal is for leadership teams to become more informed by broadening ideas about what multiple futures might bring. Scenario planning involves identifying a specific set of uncertainties, different realities of what might happen in the future. Windtunneling is a term sometimes used for the basic concept embedded with scenario planning that allows the organization to be tested in a variety of different turbulent times.
Typical approaches to scenario planning involve the following steps:
identify a focus question,
identify critical environmental factors,
identify driving forces,
rank critical uncertainties,
choose the main themes—most uncertain and essential forces,
examine implications of the scenarios, and
identify ways to monitor changes.
Scenario planning helps organizations focus on those likely and critical external elements impacting the business and think creatively about the situation. The benefits of scenario planning are changed thinking, informed narratives or stories about possible futures, improved decision making about the future, and enhanced organizational learning and imagination.
The most threatening competitor leadership teams face is themself. (Tibbs, 2000)
Leaders facing environmental conditions like today without scenario planning will likely either stop strategic planning and only operate in the short-term or take too much risk and gamble on one specific future. We need to change our thinking to go beyond what we believe in understanding. Read this article to learn more about how to grow revenue amid uncertainty. If you are planning for an upcoming strategy session and would like to learn how to bring scenario planning to your meeting, let’s talk (contact us).
Chermack, T. (2011). Scenario planning in organizations: How to create, use, and assess scenarios. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
Cornish, E. (2005). Futuring: The exploration of the future (First Paperback ed.). World Future Society.
Lewis, K., (2019). Preparing for the 2030 labor market. HR Magazine.
Ludwig, L., Giesecke, J.,& Walton, L. (2010), Scenario planning: a tool for academic health sciences libraries. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 27: 28-36. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00853.x
Lund, S., Manyika, J., Segel, L., Dua, A., Hancock, B., Rutherford, S., and Macon, B. (2019). The future of work in America: People and places, today and tomorrow. McKinsey & Company.
Nugent, T. (2020). 9 trends that will shape business education in 2020. Business Because.
Tibbs, H. (2000). Making the future visible: Psychology, scenarios, and strategy. Global Business Network.
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