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Business Insider: The benefits of scenario planning

January 24, 2022 -  By

In this month’s edition of Landscape Management, we are being encouraged to look into the future. How will the industry change in the next five to 10 years? Which innovations tested today will become standards and which will be memories? What will our businesses look like in the midst of these changes?

Trying to forecast the future may seem unproductive at first glance. After all, there are many things outside of our control. From that perspective, we are merely passengers along for the ride. All we can do is look out the windows and enjoy the scenery. Life happens to us, and there is nothing we can do about it. I disagree with this mentality.

Road to 2023 (Photo: alexsl / iStock / Getty Images / Getty Images Plus)

(Photo: alexsl / iStock / Getty Images / Getty Images Plus)

Value in planning ahead

In my experience, there absolutely is value in looking ahead and planning our futures to the best of our ability. This approach helps us prepare for what lies ahead, even though we may not know specifically what it is. It also promotes having others, who may be affected, provide input into decisions.

The reality is that we are not merely passengers, even though it may seem like it at times. There is no reason we can’t take hold of the steering wheel and be the driver, acting with purpose and intention to create a desired outcome. This is a much better approach in my opinion.

As we create plans for the future, one of the most helpful processes is to create multiple scenarios. This may be done as part of a long-term strategic planning process, or it may be done as part of a short-term decision-making process. An example of the short-term decision-making process may be helpful.

Strategic planning

Let’s say that you are a business owner, are contemplating hiring a general manager and have never done this before. A general manager would be disruptive to the status quo, but you see many positive reasons to move forward with this decision. On the other hand, you also see some potentially negative consequences due to the disruption that is likely to occur. You are conflicted.

In this example, it would be helpful for you and your inner circle to create two or more scenarios. Fully develop both scenarios to better understand the pros, cons and implications of each option.

Scenario A may be to hire the general manager. Scenario B may be to not hire the general manager. Scenario C may be to hire the general manager, but not in the general manager position initially, in order to allow staff an opportunity to warm up to this person before promoting them to the general manager role.
The same type of thought process applies to longer-term strategic planning. Let’s say you are considering adding a new service line to your business model.

This is a big decision with great opportunity but also some risk. Before making a decision, it would be helpful for you and your leadership team to fully analyze several scenarios. Fully develop the pros, cons and implications of each option and then make a decision.

By applying this extra step of scenario analysis to your decision-making process, you’ll be forced to slow down your decision-making, fully appreciate each alternative scenario and make better decisions. You and your team will be the beneficiaries of this collaborative process.

When we don’t slow down to weigh different options, we often make bad decisions, but when we take the time to roll up our sleeves and engage in a scenario-planning exercise, we make the best decision possible with the information available at that time.

Of course, things don’t always turn out as planned. That’s what makes life interesting, but that doesn’t mean we stop planning. It just means we have an opportunity to go back to the drawing board with more information.

As you think about the next five to 10 years, I encourage you to make the effort to do some scenario planning with your team. I believe you will not only enjoy the process, but you will make better decisions.

Now go forth.

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