by Lou Russell

September 15, 2021

Scenario Planning for Multiple Futures

 

“ The planning fallacy is that you make a plan, which is usually a best-case scenario. Then you assume that the outcome will follow your plan, even when you should know better." – Daniel Kahneman

 

It is normal when we are struggling with a problem, that we focus on creating ONE quick fix. The Scenario Planning process forces us to identify multiple ideas before trying a solution. Positive and Negative scenarios are equally valued. Using this ‘multiple’ process, we can evaluate responses and choices for both positive and negative solutions, allowing us to see a bigger picture and more options.

 

Important note: do not do this by yourself. You already know what you know; the shared experience of identifying four possible ‘worlds’ creates a more deep and engaging way of figuring out how to solve problems together.

 

There are four quadrants, and each represents a slightly different part of the problem based on high and low, and trust and impact. Here’s a simple example. Let’s say you are trying to build a workshop to improve a group that doesn’t like each other very well. You believe that there is a need to think about the IMPACT (delivered work) and TRUST (of others) on this team. Using Scenario Planning, you can combine these two words into four possible scenarios quadrants. There are four unique combinations: 

 

QUADRANT 1
High Impact
High Trust

QUADRANT 2
Low Impact
High Trust

QUADRANT 3
High Impact
Low Trust

QUADRANT 4
Low Impact
Low Trust

 

Now comes the fun part. For each quadrant, you get to ‘make up’ what would happen for each quadrant, thinking of good and bad outcomes. Looking at the problem this way helps you think through different situations instead of jumping to just one. If you have enough people, assign a team to each one of these quadrants, then share the results.

 

Quadrant 1:

What would it be like if your team had high IMPACT and high TRUST? How would that impact leadership, teamwork, processes, customer relationships, training, hiring, etc.? The story your team makes up for this could be: 

 

  • People respect each other and their leadership, they challenge each other appropriately, and their customers love to work with them.

 

Your team could discuss this together and get some new ideas about how they could being even better.

 

Quadrant 2:

What would it be like if your team had low IMPACT and high TRUST? The story your team might make up for this could be:

 

  • People respect each other and their leadership, they challenge each other appropriately but they aren’t good at delivering what the customer wants Instead, they just like to discuss it with their team and never deliver.

 

Your team could discuss this together and get some new ideas about how to work on delivery.

 

Quadrant 3:

What would it be like if your team had high IMPACT and low TRUST? The story your team might make up for this could be:

 

  • People are working hard on delivering value to the customers, but they are silently resentful that they are doing more work than anyone else (whether that’s true or not).

 

Your team could discuss this together and get some new ideas about how to fix the perception and reality of the workload. 

 

Quadrant 4:

What would it be like if your team had low IMPACT and low TRUST? Clearly, this is the worst scenario. The story your team might make up for this could be:

 

  • This is not a fun place – there is not only a lack of trust within the team, but this lack of trust also impacts poor results for the customers.

 

Your team could discuss this together and get some new ideas about how to improve trust while working on new ways to get results to the customers.


Each team will share and discuss the stories by sharing them with the others. Everyone hears all the suggestions. None of the suggestions are forced, just discussed. The team will begin to look for new ideas and combinations, and there’s no ultimate final goal...yet.

 

Creating New Ideas

Now that the team knows a lot about how IMPACT and TRUST are currently driving the organization, it’s time for the team to imagine something bigger and better. This is a time for stretching and sketching the great future that you could build together with honest discussions. Here are some starting points to discuss the FUTURE NEW way to have great Impact and Trust:

 

  • Break into two groups (each group should have a minimum of 3 people). Each group describes the future they discussed.
  • Have the groups tell the two stories to each other and discuss. Combine these into four ‘updated’ quadrants.
  • Each group will have one quadrant now. Each team is responsible for learning from the four quadrants and describing how to make their quadrant positive and realistic.
  • (Using Post Its) Ask each individual silently to identify things that could be done to grow the IMPACT and TRUST of the organization based on all that has been discussed. You will be amazed by the depth and innovation which comes from spending a little more time on a problem. The teams can group these post-its silently and the best ideas can be shared between all the teams.
  • Create a Project Timeline to keep the momentum going. The final, most important step is to implement the ideas in the organization and track the results.

 

Actions to Avoid

 

  1. Avoid developing scenarios without defining the issues first.
  2. Don’t develop too many scenarios – three is a good starting point. Beginning with your best guess at how the business will go, add one scenario for things going better and another for things going worse. A good starting point is 50% for best guess, then 25% for things going better, and 25% for things going worse.
  3.  Do not attempt to develop the perfect scenario – more detail does not mean more accuracy.
  4. Avoid becoming fixated on any one scenario.
  5. Don’t hold on to a scenario after it has ceased to be relevant.

 

Scenario Planning is a great way to help different types of people and problems understand that worst-case scenarios and best-case scenarios in within confusing problems. Ultimately, Scenario Planning can help executives and teams to use this as a framework for providing multiple insights. 

 

If you would like to try using Scenario Planning with one of your teams, please contact us for pricing and availability.

 

Lou Russell

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