EPILOGUE

The scenarios are not an end in themselves, but a way to map possible uncertainties that allow us to test how ‘future-proof’ certain intended strategic decisions are, in a sense placing them in the ‘wind tunnel’ of time to see what the pros and cons can be. To examine which scenario will pose a major challenge and which will be relatively easy to accept. They highlight the sensitivities of the decisions we are contemplating.

Before, we outlined four impressions of the future. They are neither a policy nor strategy, let alone an exit strategy. They are purely archetypal images of the future of ‘the Netherlands after the crisis’, developed in a consistent manner. We know that the future will never be exactly one of the perspectives we have outlined, it may well be a combination of all four scenarios. But then again, it may not.

The future scenarios make it possible to observe different decisions and issues through the lens of each scenario, and then map the effects and try to estimate what it all means. We give an example.

Planned strategic policy: Drastically reducing the amount of particulate matter, Nitrogen Oxides and pesticides in the air and soil.

In the future scenario Business normal, people respond enthusiastically to this planned policy. It offers great opportunities to use new innovative technology to make the world more sustainable.

In the future scenario Careful normal, people respond enthusiastically to the government’s planned policy of reducing pollution. In various European countries monitoring had indicated in recent years that it can improve people’s health. With this (intended) decision, the Netherlands can play an important role in sensor technology and smart processing of the data involved.

 

In the future scenario Independent normal, people are much less enthusiastic about the plan. On the one hand, the government wants to use masterplans to rebuild mobility, care and education, and on the other hand, measures to reduce pollution will primarily affect the construction and agricultural sectors.

In the future scenario Confident normal, people respond enthusiastically to the intended decision of reducing pollution. Even more large-scale pig farms and goat farms can be closed, offering more and healthier opportunities for small-scale infrastructures.

In three of the four future scenario’s, people respond enthusiastically to the policy of reducing pollution. In the case of the future scenario Independent normal, the government will have to come up with additional guarantees and compensations in order to implement the intended policy.

In addition to these content-related strategic reactions to the scenarios, there are also more general ways to apply scenarios in organisations. It is possible, for instance, to distinguish four ways that an organisation can respond to the scenarios outlined above:

  1. Robustness through buffers: this is a strategy that should have been selected in advance, before the start of the crisis, for instance by creating enough financial reserves to weather an (economic) crisis, or by making the organisation less vulnerable to new pandemic waves through strict contact rules as a line of defence around the organisation. The problem is that buffers have to be suitable for each scenario, which is why organisations do not make definitive strategic choices, but instead try to develop a middle-of-the-road strategy that applies to each scenario.
  2. Flexibility through leanness and quick reponses: in this case, organisations develop skills that will allow them to respond quickly to new developments. Rather than being an oil tanker, they try being a speedboat that can stop and turn quickly and abruptly, depending on the turbulence in the waters they are navigating. This strategy means that, within the different scenarios, sharp choices are being made, for instance by choosing a completely different business model and radically adjusting the human resources policy. It is alright to cherish the goals of the organisation, but people should not cling too much to the steps that have been defined to reach those goals. They need to understand there are more ways to skin a cat.
  3. Resilience by going with the flow and bouncing back quickly: in this case, the organisation does not try to cling to its stated objectives within each scenario, but to adapt to the circumstances outlined in the scenario, for instance by letting all its flexworkers go and keeping its permanent staff. This approach is based on the hope that, at some point, things will go back to normal. In that sense, resilience is a conservative strategy.

Learning, experimenting and monitoring: you often hear people say, “never waste a good crisis”. This strategy means that, within the different scenarios, you deliberately look for new opportunities. You are aware of the uncertainty of the future and explore new, unknown paths. You experiment and try to monitor developments. And, in a time of uncertainty, you are willing to take a risk by gradually finding out what the organisation is good at and where it is vulnerable. You learn from the future, which means that you also accept that you can fail. For this strategy, organisations first have to face their own weaknesses, which is something for which the test of a crisis is perfectly suitable. In that sense, the scenarios outlined above can serve.

 

Introduction & Foreword
Scenario 1 – Business Normal
Scenario 2 – Careful Normal
Scenario 3 – Independent Normal
Scenario 4 – Confident Normal

Essays on the Netherlands Normal
Epilogue

Download the PowerPoint presentation 4 x Netherlands Normal (20MB)