Scenario mapping is a way for organisations to establish some control over an unknown future. By mapping out different possible scenarios, leaders and decision makers in a business are able to identify potential outcomes and impacts, evaluate responses and plan for both positive and negative future possibilities.
With good scenario mapping in place, businesses can anticipate potential threats and opportunities and be more proactive when they emerge. In such a fast-paced world, it isn’t really an option to be passive and reactive anymore.
If there was ever a case to highlight the importance of scenario mapping it is the current pandemic. Overnight, businesses were thrown into turmoil. Scenario planning is a way to assert control over an uncertain future by identifying things that could emerge and having a corresponding plan of action.
How do businesses plan for the future?
A good start for leaders would be to review the recent four potential ‘workforces of the future’; scenarios developed by PWC; and base their business modelling on these emerging worlds. These ‘worlds’ are summarised as;
- The Red world: This scenario assumes innovation rules supreme. Technology enables those with winning ideas and allows for specialist and niche profit-markers to flourish. Businesses innovate to create personalisation and find new ways to serve these niches.
- The blue world: This scenario sees corporates ruling. “Organisations see their size and influence as the best way to protect their profit margins against intense competition from their peers and aggressive new market entrants. Corporations grow to such a scale, and exert such influence, that some become more powerful and larger than national economies”.
- The Green world: A world characterised by a “strong social conscience, a sense of environmental responsibility, a focus on diversity, human rights and a recognition that business has an impact that goes well beyond the financial. Workers and consumers demand that organisations do right by their employees and the wider world”.
- The Yellow world: “A world where humans come first. This is a world where workers and companies seek out greater meaning and relevance in what they do. Social-first and community businesses find the greatest success and prosper. Crowdfunded capital flows towards ethical and blameless brands.
It’s a world where workers and consumers search for meaning and relevance from organisations, ones with a social heart. Artisans, makers and ‘new Worker Guilds’ thrive”.
How to plan for the future
One thing is for sure, change is inevitable. Disruptions will happen, opportunities will emerge, businesses today, won’t be the same in five, ten or twenty years’ time. PwC’s Blair Sheppard advises of the following three implications for business leaders today when it comes to planning for their future;
- Solve today’s problem with the future in mind. The issues being faced by businesses today are so powerful and impactful and fast-moving. When organisation jump from one crisis to another, they simply manage the problem at a tactical level, without having the future in mind. This in turn, sets the business up for a more challenging future. The solution? Change the approach to deal with crises much more strategically.
- Think about your workforce as if they were your kids. People are at the heart of every business and with all the trends and disruptions happening in the workplace today, leaders and decision makers need to be more empathetic and conscious of how their decisions effect their people, both at the individual and collective levels. When radical changes happen within a business, there can also be the critical issue of shifting capabilities to keep up with the change. The capabilities of the new way of doing things, may well be lacking. In this scenario, the business needs to strategically address how to manage this. Do they upskill employees, restructure, hire new talent? All this needs to be managed with the people of the business in mind.
- Revisit why you are here in the first place. In times of change, it pays to have leaders and employees reflect on the bigger picture, the overall purpose of the business and possibly reconfigure what the business purpose is in light of the changes made as you evolve. No matter how much the business changes, the overall purpose needs to be strong and compelling, for customers and for employees alike. Leaders should never lose sight of this or allow it to get murky in the midst of change.
Many firms are having their strategic challenge radically different from what it was.
Consider a software company that was server-based, providing specialist software to individual companies, having the challenge of having to quickly move their entire offering to the cloud in a short period of time. Without responding quickly and effectively, they become irrelevant and lose a large share of their customers.
In this scenario, the company leaders have to revisit and crystalise their overall purpose, so they don’t lose themselves in this massive shift. They have to address the big questions of the business and make sure it still fits; what are we doing? Who is our market now? Why are we here? What is the difference we are making? Who are our competitors and how are we different/ better?
There is a lot to be gained from mapping out possible scenarios for your organisation’s future. Staying relevant is vital and scenario mapping ensures you have a good plan of attack when the unexpected happens.
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