25 June 2020
While we settle back to the ubiquitous ‘new normal’ under Alert Level 1, and beyond, commentators like Tim O’Reilly suggest “we are in a century of being blindsided by things we’ve been warned about for decades but never took seriously enough to prepare for.”
What is clear is “unexpected” crises will themselves become the ‘new normal’.
Scenario planning is key to preparing for that next crisis and typically seeks to identify key uncertainties that may influence the direction of your business. And given the uncertainty of the ‘new normal’, businesses need to prepare for a wide variety of unknown futures, to imagine how they might respond and make plans to support a range of possible outcomes.
We’ve already seen some of the following scenarios start to play out in the Alert Level 1 world and scenario planning will be integral to manage the outcomes at either end of the spectrum:
Travel: will quarantine and managed isolation mean travelers will need to add 14 days on either end of a holiday? Does that mean businesses will need to increase the annual leavel allowance and, if so, what are the cost implications to business?
Privacy: How does a state of permanent contact tracing affect our privacy and what are the likelihood and opportunities for misuse and use? What sectors will be most affected by significant changes to privacy and how should they plan to evolve in the face of these changes?
Offices and work-from-home: There has been much commentary about the changing nature of work arrangements in light of the lockdown experience. Will people actually want to continue the WFH experience, will they seek a flexible combination of offices and WFH or will the human need to connect and interact drive people back to the social safety of an office?
Schooling: will online education become the ‘new normal’ and will it highlight systemic weaknesses in parts of the education system? Will there need to be a paradigm shift in thinking about not only how but who delivers education?
Jobs and the economy: how long and how deep will the recession be? Will New Zealand weather the storm better or worse than its key trading partners? Who will be the smart companies that redirect and refocus their raison d’être to put them at the forefront of potentially permanent economic changes.
Politics and government: Will failure by government to manage the pandemic and its after shocks increase distrust and affect results at the ballot box? Will it herald a new era of polarity of leadership styles – from visionary leadership at one end of the spectrum to increasingly authoritarian autocracy at the other end?
What is unknown is the chance that some or all of these scenarios will become reality. But what is known is that a careful, thoughtful and systematic approach to scenario planning will result in a business being in an optimal state of preparedness when, not if, the next crisis strikes.
Reference: “Welcome to the 21st Century, How to Plan for the Post-Covid Future”, Tim O’Reilly, O’Reilly Media