Scenario Planning: Avoid Problems When Things Go Wrong

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When you are planning a horse show, do you decide ahead of time what to do if it rains or storms the day of the show? Do you have a back-up if your normal hay dealer can't deliver the type or quantity of hay you ordered, or can't deliver what you ordered in time to keep you from running out? What is your Plan B if one or more of your school horses become ill or injured, thus keeping you from teaching lessons?

To paraphrase the Robert Burns poem: The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. Which means what you plan often doesn’t work out for whatever reason, so you better have a Plan B, and Plan C, and Plan D!

But how, when you think you have a great plan, do you come up with what can go wrong? Scenario planning. It has origins in the military (much like strategic planning), but in this case you try to think of anything that could influence your plan (positively or negatively) that would change how the plan is executed.

For example, let’s look at a positive influence. You have created a new type of equine bridle browband that has an LED light on it that is shielded so it doesn’t blind your horse. Great for trail riding or search and rescue. Your manufacturer has made 1,000 of these for your first foray into the market. At $10.99 they are a great buy, and you plan on this first order lasting for six months.

They hit the market, and the headlines because a search and rescue leader in your area buys one of the first ones you sell and credits it with finding a child lost in a state park. “No trail rider should be without one!” he exclaims. And they sell out immediately, with a back order of another 1,000.

Many people don’t plan for success. While this sounds great, the risk you run is that a competitor can jump into the void and take over your market demand while you are trying to get the next batch manufactured.

With scenario planning, you would have included a plan for the product selling more quickly than you thought. It might have stated that the manufacturer needed five business days to have the factory ready to create them, and another three days before they shipped to you. So you would know it might be two weeks before more could arrive if there was a crush of sales.

The scenario might have noted that when the product inventory reached 250 with your distributor, it would trigger an inventory alarm to let you know to contact the manufacturer.

Or you might have talked to the manufacturer ahead of time and worked on a quicker way to have the lights on the market.

Or you might have found a secondary manufacturer who was willing to manufacture on a shorter deadline than the original manufacturer.

Or…

That is what scenario planning is all about. Thinking of as many possible scenarios as you can, then planning what your response would be in that situation.

While most of the scenarios will never happen, if one does, then you don’t have to plan in a panic.

You also need to do scenario planning for negative happenings, such as the ones in the lead. Sometimes we do this without ever committing those plans to paper or sharing them.

What if the negative scenario is that you are injured in an auto accident on the way to the horse show that you are putting on? Does anyone have all the information that you do so that the show can go on?

Remember, in order to have the best-laid plans, you have to think about various positive and negative scenarios and plan for as many as possible.