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Strategic Planning: Construct Possible Alternative Outcomes

After figuring out what one of your strategic plan’s short-term variable or uncertainty is, you want to develop other possible outcomes — or basically, plan for the what-if scenario. Here are the steps to building a short-term scenario plan:

  1. Define a time frame for the scenario.

    Some events may occur in 20 years, some in 2. But you can’t work with indefinite, open-ended scenarios. For this exercise, your time frame will likely be within the next several years because you’re addressing short-term uncertainties.

  2. Establish the primary variable in your scenarios.

    Use the questions listed in the preceding section to determine your variables. Alternatively, you can use current and future trends outside of the company. Assess ways in which these trends may present opportunities or threats to your business.

  3. Clearly articulate the scenario with a problem statement.

    On a white board, write down “What if _____?” or “What happens if _____?” and fill in the blank. For example: “What if we lose our biggest client, resulting in a 50 percent decrease in revenue?” or “What if a public relations scandal ruins our reputation or brand image?”

  4. Create a compelling headline or working title for the scenario.

    Something like “ABC Company Takes Its Production In-House” or “Partner in Company X Sued over Malpractice” can work.

  5. Flesh out the details of the scenario.

    Clarify the exact situation your company would be in if the scenario actually happened.

  6. Develop a trigger point and an action.

    Know when to execute the action plan if the scenario should occur by having a clear trigger point. (The trigger point is when your variable becomes a reality.) For example, a trigger point may be housing starts declining 10 percent per month for 6 months in a row.

    Then write down your action plan by listing in detail the top five steps you’ll take. Design these steps to be clear and concise so they’re not subjective when put into effect.

If you run several scenarios, you may see a range of choices come up that identify potential threats and opportunities. Many of these choices can go unnoticed if you focus exclusively on your organization’s present-day situation.

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