Written by: Claire Davies
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Key decisions: which path to take?

If there is one thing that we know about life, it is that the unexpected happens: Brexit, Trump, Macron were all outside bets to begin with. The impacts of these kinds of shocks (whether good or bad) can be difficult to predict in traditional planning processes, but might perhaps be captured by Scenario Planning. Claire Davies explains more.

'More of the same' assumptions based on past events can be dangerous, particularly in a complex and changing aviation system where traffic levels/flows are closely coupled with geopolitics and economic circumstances. Scenario planning looks at potential game changers and examines, through facilitated sessions, how they might impact an organisation by developing alternative "stories" of how the future might evolve. It's used to support long-term decision-making and it's a model that works just as well in small service providers or regulators as it does in large multi-stakeholder institutions.

This makes it sound very simple, but to be truly effective, the scenarios need to be thoroughly researched and the sessions require independent and trained facilitators with a solid understanding of the strategic environment.

When we are working on these longer term strategic projects we draw on a range of research, analysis, futures techniques, risk management and forecasting techniques, to analyse trends, drivers and market developments, which we tailor to the task at hand. These might include developing and appraising options, analysing markets and competition, developing business cases – whatever is appropriate and relevant. This research is a vital input to the "story" stage, which we typically work on with a group of senior executives and experts. The aim is to develop credible "stories" or narratives to share with decision-makers so they can examine how these alternative futures might affect the issue that confronts them - it might be a decision to build a new runway or a strategy for political engagement in Europe. The essential steps remain the same, but the inputs and outputs will vary hugely, incorporating broader geo-political and lifestyle trends as well as more granular data relating to the issue being addressed.

The technique can be applied to a host of situations: strategic acquisitions; organisational change that can have implications for decades to come, or indeed medium-term procurement cycles. Regardless of the purpose, clients tell us that they get real value from having their senior executives sitting together to consider multiple futures in a structured way. It helps them to develop a common awareness of change and a stronger basis for decision-making, it also makes them more flexible to different possibilities.

Given the recent seismic changes in Europe and the US, we are seeing more interest in 'scenario planning services futures' projects to assist strategic planning, and we are scaling up our capacity accordingly.

For more details please contact Claire Davies.

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