RESEARCH
  • Strategy

Post-Pandemic Scenario Planning

IMD’s Michael Wade offers help to business leaders planning for an uncertain future

 

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It is essential business leaders prepare for the ‘new normal’. The challenge is to envisage what it will be like, when there is so much we don’t really know about how the pandemic will play out and how our customers and other stakeholders will act in response what has happened.

The term ‘new normal’ has been rather overused, but it is very apt—we can be sure that the business world will not revert to how it was. But predicting how the world will change to affect our own business is difficult. A new study from Michael Wade, Professor of Innovation and Strategy at IMD, ‘Scenario Planning for a Post-COVID-19 World’, provides some welcome assistance.

Adapted from military use, ‘scenario planning’ is a way to develop strategy when the future is quintessentially uncertain, and when the forces shaping the future are out of an individual organization’s control. The method combines such known facts as there are to identify several possible future states, allowing the organization to imagine how it might operate in each scenario.

The IMD study suggests some plausible scenarios for the world after the COVID-19 crisis and provides guidelines for how these scenarios can be used in a workshop format to help prepare for a very uncertain future.

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DOWNLOAD IMD’S ‘Scenario Planning for a Post-COVID-19 World’ to better understand the complex post-pandemic world and how to plan for it.

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The study identifies three key factors that will shape the future:

  • Virus longevity. How long before viral infections and deaths slow down to the point where isolation policies can be lifted? Will there be: short-term impact, or long-term impact?
  • Global mindset. How will people’s views of social, economic, and political boundaries be impacted by the virus? Will there be: global acceptance, or global rejection?
  • Digital adoption. How will consumers react to the digital tools and technologies that have emerged because of the virus? Will there be: digital acceleration, or digital scepticism?

Mapping a series of different interplays between these factors and their positive and negative impacts, Wade poses four potential scenarios or divergent futures to help organizations figure out how their post-pandemic world might look:

  • Global Marketplace (short-term virus longevity; global acceptance; digital acceleration).
  • Back to Basics (long-term virus longevity; global rejection; digital scepticism).
  • Digital Reset (long-term viral longevity; global acceptance; digital scepticism).
  • Walled Gardens (short-term virus longevity; global rejection; digital acceleration).

The in-depth analysis of these scenarios, presented in the study, is intended to raise questions and challenge underlying assumptions in order to help leaders comprehend the environment their organization will be operating in, assess likely threats and opportunities, and clarify strategic thinking. The aim being to foster the organization’s business agility in navigating uncertainty.

In conclusion, Wade offers a practical, team based, workshop approach to using the scenarios. Using this approach, by placing their own organization in each of the depicted scenarios, teams can assess and debate multiple situations and contemplate different ideas and strategies for addressing the various post-pandemic futures suggested.

 


IMD is a top-ranked business school, expert in developing leaders, transforming organizations and creating immediate and long-term positive impact.



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