Response Readiness Part Three: Identifying the Critical Uncertainties

18 Nov 2020


In the last part of our blog series on how to get your organisation response-ready with our 10-step Scenario and Contingency Action Planning (SCAP) process,  we looked at defining the entity and its current environment and identifying the driving forces that could shape your organisation's future. Now it’s time to explore the third and fourth stages of the process.

The third of our ten steps involves identifying the critical uncertainties your organisation should invest time and effort in creating scenarios and contingency action plans for. There are two factors to zero-in on:


One by-product of undertaking this element of our SCAP process is that organisations typically identify future conditions that will have significant impact, which are actually not uncertain, but have not yet been factored into their forward plans. In this case, it is not a scenario and contingency plan that is required but an action plan to deal with the condition that they can now clearly see coming towards them.

For example, the regional management team of a professional services company we helped with its Scenario and Contingency Action Planning, identified a significant unfavourable impact to its business, namely that the long-established workflow from other regions would dry up as clients' switched to remote working due to COVID-19, which meant that in-region face-to-face support would no longer be required. There was already clear evidence this change was occurring, so it did not require the creation of a scenario but an immediate action plan to ramp up local sales and marketing efforts.

The process of identifying critical uncertainties may reveal actions that you should have started taking yesterday!

Once you have identified the critical uncertainties, it’s time to move on to the fourth step - visualising the contrasting outcomes associated with each of them.

Imagine the range of possibilities associated with each of the critical uncertainties identified. This will help form the basis for your scenarios.

Here are some current examples:

Critical Uncertainty

From Outcome

To Outcome

COVID travel restrictions between NSW and QLD

QLD border fully open to all NSW residents at end Nov 2020

QLD border remains closed to Greater Sydney residents until vaccine effective – Dec 2021

Businesses will ask employees to work from home

Employees will return to the normal workplace once local regulations permit

Certain roles will permanently be required to work from home


As you can see there is a range of "potential futures" associated with each critical uncertainty. Systematically thinking through and identifying these extremes will provide the basis for the next of the step in the process, describing the scenarios associated with each critical uncertainty.

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