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A shout out for scenarios, metaphor, and the Beaconsfield mine rescue

Advice is coming thick and fast right now. I've taken plenty of advice on technology for new ways of working. Other, equally important advice, is for new ways of thinking. I've found these prompts useful.

Scenarios help set out the options

Build scenarios: that’s a clear message from business advisors right now. Here, at The Training Practice, we’ve developed four scenarios to help us work through the present crisis. And I’m sure they’ll change in the days and weeks ahead.

KPMG has developed two scenarios for the future of New Zealand’s economy:

1. Recovery by the end of 2020

2. Longer-term economic impact

Are two scenarios enough when so many are possible and each industry is different? Well, maybe not, but it’s a start.

Metaphor brings the options to life

We’ve found it useful to use metaphor to describe our scenarios. Two of ours are:

1. The Leicester City outcome

We thrive and come out better and stronger than before. You may remember Leicester City won the Premier League in 2015/16 against odds of 5000/1.

2. Walk the Tongariro Crossing and keep walking

I’ve only walked the Tongariro Crossing once and it was a hard slog. In this scenario, once we’ve got to the end of the hard slog, we need to keep walking to keep going.

Why is metaphor useful? It gets people thinking in different ways. For example, when you’re walking the Tongariro Crossing excess baggage will slow you down. What do you really need to carry with you? What can you safely leave behind? You’re in different terrain, so adapt to it.

Which of our scenarios will pan out? No idea at this stage. Who knows what will change this week or even tomorrow. So plans are great, but remember Mike Tyson: everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. So plan for different punches and some cuddles as well. (That’s metaphor again.)

The Beaconsfield mine rescue is ever-changing scenarios in action

About four years ago I was on holiday in Tasmania and ended up at the Beaconsfield mine. In April 2006, the mine collapsed trapping two miners. Todd Russell and Grant Webb were trapped underground in a confined space for about two weeks before they were rescued.

How were they rescued? Was there one plan? Far from it. The mine’s museum tells the story of rescue scenarios A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. The rescuers learned by experimenting, seeing what worked, abandoning one scenario, then trying another. At the time, I remember thinking that was a great example of scenario planning. And it is. It’s the territory we’re in now.


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