Better Planning to Predict the Future

Ah, the second week of the New Year! The birds are singing, the sky is bright and there is eagerness in the way people are getting back to work, planning to put last year behind them and make something great happen in 2011.

Some early economic indicators seem to have many employers putting out the “Help Wanted” signs and many candidates approaching their job search with a somewhat more optimistic outlook. Things can only get better.

Have you planned for this brighter tomorrow? Were you prepared for the recession/depression type years of 2009/2010?

In a blog I wrote a few weeks back, Planning to Predict the Future, my suggestions for planning did not include a very critical component. I was reminded of this omission after re-reading the ground breaking book by Peter Schwartz, The Art of the Long View. Schwartz was part of a team at Royal/Dutch Shell that helped pioneer the concept of scenario planning. He has since gone on to forming his own consulting firm offering scenario planning services to a broad range of clients.

At its simplest, scenario planning is part of the planning process wherein managers invent and then consider, in depth, several varied stories of equally plausible futures. Once these plausible futures are developed, usually no more than three, strategic decisions can be made that will be sound for all plausible futures. No matter what future takes place, you, your company are much more likely to be ready for it – and influential in it – having thought seriously about scenarios.

Scenario planning is not just for the big multinational companies, it can be and should be part of the planning process of every sized business and could even be used by anyone in the workforce, or those just joining the workforce.

As a business leader helping to develop scenarios you should consider what if any changes in society, technology, economics, politics and the environment will have on your future plans. Looking back at 2005, could you have foreseen the downturn in the economy in 2009-2010? Could you have anticipated the financial crisis, mortgage crisis and the bail outs that followed?

As someone in the workforce, could you have anticipated something like what has recently happened in the economy back in 2005? Would you have planned your career differently had you developed your own scenarios back then?

If you were just entering the workforce in 2005 and done some scenario planning would you have taken a job in the financial sector, gone into the mortgage business or taken a job with any of the companies that experienced massive layoffs in 2009 and 2010?

No matter what your position is, business leader, talent manager, employee, job seeker, recruiter creating scenarios about the future, your own future, ensures that you are not always right about the future but – better – that you are almost never wrong about the future.

Let me know what type of future we will have in 2020. I am thinking that the year 2020 will be all about hindsight, but I could be wrong.



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