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Developing Alternative Scenarios: “Green” Strategic Workforce Planning

This is the seventh in a series of eight blog posts that focus on Strategic Workforce Planning, with blog post 1 providing an overview of all seven steps.

Our focus this week is developing possible scenarios that build on the insights you’ve gained as you’ve progressed from Step 1: Frame Your Project to Step 6: Speed and Trajectory.

This is a step in the process where tapping into the collective wisdom of your team is invaluable. As Tracey Marsh with Weir, a global engineering firm, notes in the People + Strategy podcast (with Judith Scimone, 2021), you want to engage all personality types, and I would add that a diverse range of views, experiences, and perspectives from across the organization is essential.

The goal of this meeting, ideally a facilitated session with breakout groups, is to “throw ideas on a board” and pose “what ifs,” Tracey notes.

There is also a magic that happens when people are together over meals and breaks. If you can meet safely in person, given necessary pandemic restrictions, it can be a value-add to the process.

Tapping into the expertise and experience of everyone around the table, the research questions for this one-day meeting include questions like:

  • What possibly is around the corner for our organization, knowing what we know right now?

  • What are some potential “best” and “worst” case scenarios that come to mind?

  • What challenges/opportunities don’t we know enough about yet?

Collect as many possible future options and ideas from participants. Be sure to track all insights gathered. In virtual environments, there are several great tools available today, such as MarsView Notes and others, that can transcribe meetings for notetaking purposes (just be sure that attendees provide permission to be recorded).

When tracking notes after the session, sort them according to tangible ideas as well as those that may be “out there,” Tracey recommends. And, be sure to ask the question, how do the items in both categories track to where your organization is right now?

Then, you’ll also want to “zoom-out” to look at these two categories. What overarching themes or factors anchored to uncertainty are evident?

For example, some of the factors you might identify could include workplace flexibility (e.g., in-person versus remote work), climate trends (such as climate regulations, growing call for the greening of cryptocurrencies, etc.), and employee wellness (such as a greater request for mental health support), among others.

You may want to further identify these factors based on if they are Internal or External. Next, use these two uncertainties to draw an X-Y axis as part of your scenario-building efforts.

For example, if you are a park superintendent, an Internal Uncertainty could be your Park Funding. An External Uncertainty could be Growth in Park Visitorship. We know that National Park visitorship in the U.S. has been growing over the last several years, with the highest level of growth by far occurring since the pandemic began.

Pick one Internal and External Uncertainty each for your X-Y axis. Don’t worry about selecting the “right” two factors as you can create several of these 4X4 charts (and actually I encourage this). Look at all the STEEP categories and include them in the ranges of charts you create.

Plot the factors on your X-Y axis, graduating from left to right in terms of possible risk to the organization. To make this process easier, describe the level of risk and add it to each quadrant.

Next, begin to populate each of the quadrants with insights drawn from the day-long stakeholder meeting and the plethora of data you have been collecting over the last several weeks. (This is where having a Working Group, as noted in Step 4: Expand Your Aperture Further, can be quite valuable. You can divide up the quadrants and brainstorm together.)

Source: “Scenario Planning in an uncertain future,” by Anthony C. Taylor, 2017

You want to arrive at four different possible “stories” that populate the 4X4 chart. Use the tidbits, themes, key data points, etc. as inspiration to write a headline for each quadrant. Check out these examples for inspiration and additional ideas to include in this sixth step:

In the 7th step that comes next, we’ll bring all the steps together and backcast from the scenarios you’ve created as part of your Green Strategic Workforce Plan.

A few questions to ponder:

  • What “out there” possibilities have you considered as part of your 4 quadrant scenarios?

  • What other internal and external factors do you want to draw on for creating additional 4x4 charts, as part of your Green Strategic Workforce Planning?

ICYMI...Strategic Workforce Planning Series: 7 Steps for “Green” Strategic Workforce Planning Frame Your Project: “Green” Strategic Workforce Planning Broaden Your Aperture: “Green” Strategic Workforce Planning Looking for Patterns: “Green” Strategic Workforce Planning Expand Your Aperture Further: “Green” Strategic Workforce Planning Speed and Trajectory: “Green” Strategic Workforce Planning

Can we help with building the skills you need to advance greener outcomes?

Reach out to Beth Offenbacker, PhD, CPCC, ACC, at or via phone or text at (703) 623-4811 to discuss if our Green Career, Executive/Leadership Coaching, Strategic Workforce Planning, Small Group Mentoring, Stakeholder Engagement, or Learning & Development services are right for you.

We work with professionals and organizations that have a sustainability focus. All services are customized to your needs.

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