Strategic plans move in and out of favour. Even for organizations, they are often dismissed as unworkable, inflexible or inappropriately vague. To take the same principles and apply them personally can feel overly formal or downright pretentious. At the same time, the tools of time management don’t provide a lot of guidance beyond today and this week. They might nod in the direction of longer term planning, but they don’t offer a great deal of direction on how to get there. So what’s the value of building personal strategy, what does it look like and why should you care?
That we are in a collective and unprecedented liminal experience is pretty much beyond debate. We are also now at a point where we can see the return to something like normalcy being dangled tantalizingly before us, somewhere in the near-distant future. The question is where we want to go from here. The pandemic is a universally experienced imposition of reality where none of us had control. Emerging from the pandemic, however, is an entirely different proposition. We have choice. We have opportunity. We have agency. But what do we do with it?
In thinking about how to facilitate strategic discussions in a not face-to-face environment, it is easy to treat the exercise as simply translating in-person activities into an online environment. I believe that is a trap. The reality is that even in person we don’t often conduct good meetings, and we rarely leverage the full diversity of the people at the table. For complex and messy we substitute simple and easy. In discussing strategically important questions online, that is a potential recipe for disaster.
Scenarios are a way to challenge; they call into question viewpoints, they confront ideologies and they prompt broader perspectives. Within that expansive perspective, it is hoped that new opportunities and necessary actions emerge. The scenarios that I presented last week were very much intended to do just that. They reinforce that while we are all in the same storm, we are not in the same boat. The boat that we find ourselves in will define—or curtail—our options. Mobilization, then, is in part making sure that the boat we find ourselves in is sufficiently sturdy, appropriately equipped and up to the task of the voyage that we find ourselves on.
We have all been wrestling with how the pandemic ends. There is so much that we don’t know. There are so many uncertainties and complexities. In the past few articles, I’ve explored various ways that scenarios can help us make sense of the world around us. In this article, I show rather than tell. Four scenarios of possible futures and potential outcomes of how re-entry unfolds.
The future is a challenging place to contemplate. There are many factors that we can’t control, and many circumstances that we can’t influence. Making meaningful choices about an uncertain future often feels overwhelming, impossible and ultimately futile. The articles of the last few weeks have both explicitly and implicitly explored the role of scenarios in considering possible futures. They can be invaluable tools to manage uncertainty and identify meaningful future choices.