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How to Put It All Together in Gaining Advantages from Irresistible Forces

Feb 27, 2008
What if you work in a volatile environment? Shift from forecasting to thinking about "what if" changes happen.

Sometimes the winds of irresistible forces can blow in many and unpredictable directions, and the required actions can be quite diverse. Consider the pricing and demand for commodities like oil. How can you prepare for changing oil prices, even if you have all the values, alignment, clarity, and understanding that you think you need?

Royal Dutch Shell provides an example from the period of the Arab oil embargo in the 1970s. Just prior to that time, the company's planning department had been charged with developing a large number of scenarios about what could happen to the petroleum industry in the future. The purpose of this exercise was to provide the groundwork for the company to prepare its options well in advance, and then act quickly and decisively once an irresistible force showed its face and direction.

Shell realized that forecasting these actions may be seen as a waste of time, but the company was fairly sure that the future would lie somewhat in one or more of the directions developed in the scenarios. You guessed it. One of the scenarios called for an Arab oil embargo and an overnight spike in the price of petroleum.

When the embargo actually happened, Shell had already considered its plans, with consistency relative to its values, all the necessary alignment, and required clarity. The company more quickly implemented its plans than competitors did by tapping into new, lower-priced sources of supply not affected by OPEC, making products that would make the company a good profit at the newly-inflated prices, and focusing on markets where demand would be the least affected. The company saw its earnings rise while most competitors stumbled.

Arie de Geus, a Royal Dutch Shell executive from those days, points out an interesting characteristic of scenario planning that he learned from his years of experience with this process. Developing scenarios seems to help people and organizations become more comfortable with how to think about changed circumstances. Thus they are better able to see the new direction and deal with it in a positive way.

Does your organization know about the alternative scenarios that irresistible forces could bring to your environment?

Are you ready with plans for those scenarios?

If not, you may be missing a major opportunity to steal a march on your competitors while serving your customers better than they can.
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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