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Planning Versus Panic in Times of Uncertainty

What’s the best way to curb panic and unease during a crisis? Believe it or not, this is not a rhetorical question. The answer is preparation.

As uncertainty and confusion spread around the globe, I remember this particular technique that has been extremely efficient when navigating uncertainty in my business over the past 12 years. It’s called Scenario-Based Planning or SBP.

The basic premise of the exercise is that you identify a variety of threat or opportunity scenarios, and then develop narratives as you play each one out. The purpose of the exercise isn’t to predict the future - that’s, of course, impossible - but it provides valuable intel, inspires confidence and flexes an organizational muscle.

To perform this exercise in your own business, identify 3-5 opportunities or threats, then identify 3-5 ways that each opportunity or threat can manifest itself. In other words, if you run a clothing boutique, one dimension would be the loss of an adequate supply chain. That can be broken down into type of inventory (dress/shoes/accessories), the storage of the inventory (in-store/warehouse/online) and the geography of the inventory (China/US/Italy). So, visually, your dimension (column) is Inventory and your categories (rows) are Type, Geography and Storage. This is how your matrix looks.

Then, once you’ve built the full matrix of the ways that each scenario can come to life, create randomized scenarios by picking one from each column. This part of the exercise can seem completely implausible but that is the point - to create scenarios with such oddities that you then have the foresight to deal with even the most odd scenarios in a maverick-like fashion.

Not only have I seen this work for my own Virtual Assistant business, but I’ve also seen it work for clients in virtually every industry from real estate to finance, from manufacturing to healthcare.

While I can’t predict the future, I can say with confidence that if you do SBP, you’ll be able to ride out the uncertain times. You’ll be able to think more creatively, more strategically and pivot more quickly.

Having a flexible plan prepared for a variety of scenarios will go a long way in easing your stress and calming your anxiety. Keep moving and keep controlling that which you can control.

And as the old saying goes, “Out of all bad, comes good.”

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