Scenario Planning During Crisis
Scenario planning provides a way to simplify the uncertainties we are dealing with to get to a few manageable and representative future scenarios around which we can plan. Traditionally scenario planning involves choosing the two most impactful uncertainties (e.g. “When can we regather in person?” and “What will giving levels be?”). While those uncertainties may have an infinite number of possible realities, for planning purposes, choose two — perhaps an optimistic and a pessimistic value for each uncertainty.
Those two values for each of two uncertainties creates four possible scenarios you can then plan around. It helps to assign likelihoods of each scenario, as well as writing a narrative to describe each scenario. It’s also very helpful to assign a name to each scenario to simplify planning and to make it easy for the leadership team to reference the different scenarios.
The remaining planning steps will be performed for each of the four scenarios. I know that sounds like a lot of work when you’re already overwhelmed — developing 12 different sets of plans — but there’s likely lots of overlap in plans across scenarios and deeply understanding the differences will be critical to being prepared in this time of very high uncertainty.
Planning During Crisis – Situation Analysis
In Luke 14 Jesus warns us to understand our situation before charging forward, saying “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?… Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?” Situation Analysis is the planning step that helps us know what we’re getting ourselves into.
In business, Situation Analysis is traditionally captured as a SWOT — strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. I’ve found it helpful to start with the external environment — opportunities and threats. A framework that can help think through these external factors is six segment analysis (demographic, sociocultural, political/legal, economic, technological, and global). For each of these segments we will document the current situation as it impacts our church, known trends, and uncertainties and then evaluate how those realities, trends, and uncertainties all translate into opportunities and threats for how we operate. In our specific case, we probably want to focus on sociocultural, economic, and technological factors.
Once we identify the opportunities and threats that may shape our future, we can identify the strengths and weaknesses within our church that will impact our susceptibility to any threats and our ability to benefit from any opportunities.
The resulting Situation Analysis provides a critical perspective for continuing our planning. As I’ve said before, it’s important to do this 12 times — once for each of the four scenarios in each of the three planning periods.