To lead in Chaos

With an ongoing pandemic and a turbulent stock-market, most CEO’s and Managers are occupied with coping with these swift and harsh alterations. Leading in chaos is not only about keeping several balls in the air at the same time or choosing between plague or cholera. Leading in chaos is also about being able to see what comes after the disarraying now and to accumulate a readiness for what comes next. By doing so, one possesses the calming virtues necessary for instilling bravery and hope to the own organization, but also future preparedness by harnessing strategies for what comes next.

In this moment, all of us has genuine uncertainties of strategic importance to maintain, whether they are for individuals, organizations or countries. We all need to understand what alterations there could be for our organization, our company and our selves. The pivotal questions right now are how swift the virus will spread, for how long the epidemic will last all connected markets around the world. No one can answer these questions with uttermost certainty. However, we can appraise possible scenarios and their subsequent consequences. In times of great uncertainty and swift alterations, such analyzations are more important than ever before. 

Understand the future through scenario planning
Scenario planning is a renowned and well-documented method for understanding the possible scenarios of the future. Kairos Future`s founder Mats Lindgren and former partner Hans Bandhold has written a book on the topic of scenario planning which has been translated into several languages, as of its use by universities and managers alike around the world. Scenario planning is all about possessing a curious approach to uncertainties and alterations in the surrounding world, combined with a variation of methods to identify that which could be classified as unidentifiable. This in order to transform insights of the future to strategic action.

The uncertain future is near
It is commonplace for Kairos Future whilst undertaking scenario planning, to glance at a future ten, twenty or thirty years from now. However, as of the uncertain world in recent weeks and months, the method has proven its worth in evaluating the near future and identifying what strategic decisions could work best as of this moment.

The future of a business or a question is determined by mainly two developments: what we can evaluate as a certain development – trends – and what is more fluctuating in nature – uncertainties. Therefore, a thorough analysis is of great importance – in order to identify the most predominant certainties as well as uncertainties. Meticulous research is required in order to do this and the subsequent analysis has to be assembled on a plentitude of data. In terms of certain trends, we can concur that despite the pandemic, humans will still require to meet, be entertained, relax, sleep, communicate and receive acknowledgement. 

In terms of uncertain trends however, a good initial basis is to affirm one’s uncertainty and being able to say” we are uncertain on how this will develop onwards”. Since most who claim that they now how the future will transpire are wrong (there are naturally uncountable quotes on people whom where wrong about the future, see for example; 15 Worst Tech Predictions Of All Time), we should instead use a more humble approach to the topic by asking; ”how can this develop and what are the different identifiable alternatives”. 

Scenarios as a basis for the strategic work
Scenarios are therefore used as a basis for the strategic work which can be done at a high and comprehensive level, or in a more company-adjacent level. But scenarios can also be used as a mean of exploring the future for a certain question within one’s own line of business. Scenarios – and the process in which scenarios are developed – assembles clarity in complex questions regarding the future, whether the question is placed 30 years from now or 30 days ahead. They help us in realizing that the world can be developed in other means than we are used to, by detecting both threats and possibilities as well as by experimenting with the outcome of different strategic decisions. Therefore, it is a necessary complement to traditional, alternative forecasts regarding for example the development of distribution curves. With the help of scenarios, we possess the tools necessary for creating strategies and operating capabilities in order to change our own future. As a leader, you will receive safety by possessing a better understanding of what comes next and how you should act accordingly, naturally depending on the outcome.

Learn more about how we perceive scenario planning by listening to the webinar The Art of Leading in Chaos (in order to watch this webinar you need to be a Kairos Future Friends member. It is free of charge, learn more here). You can also read more about our basic course in scenario analysis that is available on request.

Johanna Danielsson
COO, Senior Partner

By Johanna Danielsson