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Scenario Planning the Future
As organizations engage in strategic dialogue in an open and honest way, they start to build a repository of influences, uncertainties and factors that companies should plan for, but may not be paying much attention to. Lawrence Wilkinson, chairman of Heminge & Condell and founder of the Global Business Network, said the exploration of uncertainty, regardless of its use in scenarios, can lead to “collaborative alignment and mutual understanding of the business context.” Wilkinson said that North American companies that remain provincial in their strategy despite the overwhelming evidence of globalization prove indignant in naming what they don’t know about markets and end up with “incomplete and unbalanced assumptions.”
Rebecca Wayland, managing director of Competitive Paradigms, said that clients new to scenario planning often “‘yes’ their advisers to death, saying, ‘Yes, we have already considered that’ to every item discovered.” Thus, the biggest impediment to serious strategic planning is the willingness to admit there are things one may not know.
Learning From Context
Once uncertainties have a name, they need to be considered — not in isolation, but in how they play out against each other as well as against more stable forces, such as demographics. The narratives that evolve from the intermingling of uncertainties become scenarios.
To expand on his examination of North American businesses, Wilkinson said that scenarios help organizations “appreciate the global markets in different ways — seeing their different competing complexions, recognizing what is inconsistent with their models. Uncertainty only helps organizations recognize new sets of muscles. Scenarios help them learn how to flex them.”
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