Monday, July 6, 2009

Scenario Planning: WSJ profiles JDS Uniphase for its annual planning session -- Is annually enough?

Today's Wall St. Journal included an article about scenario planning: "Pendulum Is Swinging Back on 'Scenario Planning' JDS Uniphase Prepares Responses for a Range of Business Situations, Helping Company React Quickly to Change."

Here's how the article defined "scenario planning": it's "preparing responses to imagined changes in conditions." However, "'It's not about predicting the future,' says Peter Schwartz, a partner at Monitor Group, a Cambridge, Mass., consulting firm. 'Scenario planning is a tool for learning' and making better decisions."

My question: is scenario planning on an annual basis the right timetable to really enable a company to "react quickly to change?"

Given current conditions, I think annual planning isn't enough because conditions are so fluid, often in negative ways -- a reason to never take clients for granted.

On the other hand, we picked up a new client earlier this year, and our work for them has enabled us to pitch other, non-competitive companies in that sector, one which I would not have identified as a sweet spot six months ago. (We had the relevant experience, just had not seen much activity in that area for us.) The result: we're packaging our very current results and experience and placing a bigger bet on that sector.

We hold scenario sessions twice a year, and even that may not be enough. Some questions we consider include:
  • What are current media trends? We compile these trends each year in Dec. for the following year.
  • How might these trends impact our business, including our ability to generate media coverage? We then regularly brief our clients on our thoughts and recommendations.
  • What trends are we seeing with our clients? We ask this on an individual client basis as well as on a macro level that includes prospects.
  • What are clients asking us for -- and in what ways does this represent a change?
  • What do we need to have in place to take advantage of potential changes?
Some of the results of our internal planning sessions have helped us enter new markets, develop expertise in new areas, etc. But we find that once a year planning isn't enough.

No comments: