Issues Mapping

A great piece in the new McKinsey Quarterly by Charles Roxburgh about the value of scenario planning prompts me to share our own version of scenario planning we call “issues mapping.”  Whereas Charles uses certain criteria he calls pre-determined outcomes to frame scenarios, we frame our process using four forces: economics, demographics, technology change and culture change.  We map these four forces against the entire value chain of an organization to identify reputation risks and opportunities that arise as these four forces interact over time.  What this process does is it throws into sharp relief how an organization that fails to adapt can go from being a reputation leader to a reputation laggard or be exposed to a crisis that could have been predicted.  Charles offers an example of a pre-determined outcome as used by Shell Oil, a pioneer in scenario planning: “Rainfall in the mountains means flooding in the plains.”  A simple example of our issues mapping process is what happens when a smaller than average 18-34 year old age cohort interacts with a strong economy: front line customer service quality declines because more qualified workers can find better jobs in a strong economy.  The answer — investment in training and supervision.  These are certainly times for companies and organization to take the time to think through the unthinkable.  Issues mapping isn’t a bad way to do it, when reputation is at risk.

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