The Royal Dutch Shell – a global oil company and one of the biggest three in their industry is reputed for being very good at planning. Specifically, they are well known for the kind of planning that is referred to as ‘Scenario Planning’. This is a kind of planning that sketches plausible future situations that may occur.
With this kind of approach, Shell is usually ready for any positive and especially adverse events that can directly impact their business. This explains why Shell has been thriving for more than 100 years. They are able to weather big storms when they hit their industry. I remember the time I was working for Shell in Europe in 2006 to 2009, even when oil prices would plunge by as much as half or more, Shell would still register not just profits but increased profits. This was so because Shell would have been ready for those scenarios well before they occurred.
I believe that Shell’s approach to eventualities is very relevant to us in Malawi now. More than one hundred countries in the world are now infected with the coronavirus, which causes the Covid-19 disease. Malawi remains one of less than 10 countries in Africa without confirmed cases of the virus.
As this case continues, and we pray we do not get the virus into our country, this is the time to use the Shell Scenario planning. We can apply this technique in our work or business environments as well as to our personal circumstances. For work and business, this means that we need to sketch a few scenarios of what the world is likely to be with coronavirus attacking Malawi. What will be the challenges that your business or job will face during and after the coronavirus attack?
You can sketch a couple of scenarios. When I was at Shell, I noticed that they liked to group the scenarios into three categories. The first category is the lower case. This is like the minimum possible situation that will occur. The second one is the maximum possible situation or worst case scenario. And then the third one is obviously the middle case – this is the scenario between the worst and the easiest possible situations.
Once you draw the three scenarios, you need to write their stories, describing each of the three scenarios, their implications and what they will mean to you. This means that you need to stipulate how you would react to each of the three scenarios in order to survive and conquer those scenarios. Remember that when the scenarios occur, you may not have the time, passion and even environment as well as resources to deal with those scenarios. It is best to plan thoroughly now.
The next step is to estimate which of the three scenarios is the most likely occurrence? Do you think that the minimum case is the most plausible one or the worst-case scenario or indeed the middle case? Once you determine which of the three is most likely to occur, you devote more time to that scenario by detailing further the action plan for your reaction and response to the occurrence of that scenario.
At a personal level too, you need to go through nearly the same process. Map out the possible scenarios – typically three. Outline the respective effects that each of the scenarios would have on you and your family. Then develop the proactive and reactive plans on how you can deal with each of the three scenarios. Specifically, when coronavirus comes, how will you be financially sustainable? Will you continue to make money or be paid for 3 months or 6 months? What if it lasts one year? If Malawi is subjected to lockdown, how will you survive during the lockdown. And quite critically, how will you spend your time during the ‘boring’ lockdown? You need to spend the time in ways that make up for the lost time. This will be the subject for discussion next week, so do be there for part 2 to this discourse on applying Shell Planning to Covid-19. Good luck as you rise and shine despite Corona!