Coronavirus and the worldwide lockdown took almost everyone by surprise. While the idea of a global pandemic had been widely touted as a geopolitical risk since at least the SARS outbreak in 2003, it is quite evident that there were few governments - and even fewer businesses - that had seriously prepared for one.
It’s quite possible COVID will go down in history as a freak event, but it nonetheless illustrates how important it is to prepare for the unexpected.
Scenario planning is a tool designed to do exactly that. Developed by military strategists and first pioneered in a business context at Shell in the 1960s and 1970s, it proved its worth most famously during the 1973 oil price shock, which the company’s scenario planning group had anticipated the year before. The result was that Shell went from being a laggard among oil majors to being one of the leaders, a position it has retained.