At the very moment when the present least resembles the past, it makes little sense to look back in time for clues about the future”
This interesting quote comes from an article in the latest Harvard Business Review (Jul-Aug 2020).
So, if we can’t use the past to predict the future, how do we plan ahead with any degree of certainty?
There are various tools that can be used to help manage the uncertainty around strategic planning.
1. Trend analysis – use PEST analysis to look at market trends and consider the potential impact on your business.
2. Horizon scanning – this takes a wider view of the external market and encourages you to ‘keep an eye on’ any possible future threats.
3. Scenario planning – explore possible future scenarios in a narrative form. A creative way to do this is to imagine you are writing the headlines of a newspaper for your chosen time-frame.
4. Forecasting – this is about using facts and statistics to make predictions about the future, and maybe apply some probabilities to them. It provides a degree of quantitive analysis to any scenario planning.
5. Contigency planning – many of us will have contigency plans in lace in life, as well as in our business. The fall back position should things go wrong! By having plans in place then this removes the need for knee-jerk reactions.
At the end of the day, whichever tool you use is not really important. What is important is that you are planning for uncertainty.