On 12 February 2021, Federmanager Bologna – Ferrara – Ravenna is organizing a webinar on “Scenario Planning for Managers”, designed to give you a valuable foresight tool for assessing how the future might change – no matter whether you are evaluating the future outlook for your company, for a specific business unit, or an entire industry. Our guest presenter is Woody Wade, a scenario planning expert who has conducted in-company scenario generation workshops for organizations in more than 30 countries.
Paolo Fanti, promoter of this first important meeting for Federmanager, asked Woody Wade some questions.
Federmanager: What is scenario planning? How is it different from forecasting?
Woody Wade: Scenario planning and forecasting both look at the future, but in different ways. Scenario planning is a methodology that helps you foresee how your business landscape might change – and also see that it might not evolve only in the direction you expected. Instead, completely different futures are also possible, depending on how important uncertainties play out. With scenario planning, you identify what these different futures could realistically be. You go through a structured process that reveals alternative outcomes that are different but nevertheless plausible. So it’s about exploring possible futures.
Forecasting, on the other hand, tries to predict the future, usually based on an arithmetic extrapolation from the way things are now. This may be useful if you are only trying to look one or two years ahead, but in the longer run, your business landscape is probably going to be subject to more fundamental changes – so scenario planning is a better approach.
So scenario planning is more qualitative?
In general, yes. In scenario planning, you first visualize entire landscapes. When you have done that, then you can also quantify how your KPIs are likely to evolve in those landscapes. But scenario planning isn’t really about trying to get the numbers right. You’re not trying to predict what will happen, but explore what could happen. This is helpful, because if you can foresee how more than just one future might plausibly develop for your business, and you can prepare yourself earlier for opportunities – and challenges – that could arise.
Do you see this as especially relevant these days?
Absolutely. Jeff Immelt, the former CEO of GE, once said, “I have to manage for tomorrow’s world.” That’s very much the case for anyone in business who is making decisions now that will lay the groundwork for the company’s future growth. If you’re responsible for the future success of a company, or even an individual project, millions of Euros may depend on how well your decisions today fit in the future landscape. So to help you make the best decisions today, you really need to have an idea how your landscape could change. We all know that the future is going to be different. That’s a given. But how will it be different? That’s where scenario planning helps you.
Tell us about the webinar.
Scenario planning follows a logical, very structured process, so the webinar will take participants through each of the steps, one after the other, with some examples from actual scenario generation exercises I’ve conducted over the last few years. That will last about 40 minutes or so, and then we’ll have time for questions and clarifications.
What will participants get out of the webinar?
First, they’re going to learn how to generate future scenarios, based on my methodology. But besides this practical know-how, an intellectual benefit is that it gives you a completely new way of thinking. You’re going to come away from the webinar with an appreciation for visualizing the future in terms of alternative possibilities rather than the conventional way people think about the future, which is to assume that things will evolve in a fairly linear, predictable way.
Do you see scenario planning as especially useful in the COVID-19 world?
Oh yes! What scenario planning does is focus on change, especially on change that is uncertain. That is what we are all experiencing now. During the last few months, we have all become very inventive and have found new ways to do things. Some of those new approaches may only be temporary, but some will become part of the permanent way we do business. We have already been through a lot, but we are still looking at big changes ahead. And ones that are hard to predict.
What about your background, Woody? What are your qualifications for talking to us on this subject?
On the academic side, I got my MBA from Harvard (many years ago now!), and during my business career I’ve had the chance to teach strategy at a couple of universities as an adjunct professor.
On the practical side, I’ve been conducting scenario generation workshops for several years now, for a variety of different kinds of organizations. Mostly in the business world, but also for governments, educational institutions, and NGOs – in about 30 countries so far. For example one typical workshop looked at possible futures for the 5-star hotel market in Dubai, but another one looked at the future of fundraising for the Red Cross.
How did you get interested in scenario planning?
I can trace my interest in scenario thinking back to my time on the Executive Board of the World Economic Forum. At our big annual meetings in Davos, it always impressed me to see how hungry business and political leaders were for any ideas and insights about how the future might develop. CEOs understand that their most important task is to prepare their organizations for the future. Foreseeing how their future markets or business environment might turn out is a vital concern for them.
You also wrote a book on scenario planning…
Yes, about 8 years ago my book “Scenario Planning: A Field Guide to the Future” was published by Wiley, one of the largest business publishers in the US. It’s become one of the five or six reference books on the subject, and also published in some foreign language editions.
In the webinar scheduled for February 12, 2021 at 16:30 there will also be Stefano Ravera, who is in charge of spreading the Scenario Planning methodology in Italy.
For further information: https://www.woodywade.com/
How can people register for the webinar?
Click here and fill the form at the end of the page