<aside> 🗓️ (Last updated: April 9, 2020) This Scenario Response Planner is a template for the 5-step framework we shared in today's First Round Review article on how founders and startup leaders can respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Be sure to check out the full field guide (and subscribe to the First Round Review newsletter if you haven't already!)


Intro: Why we made this.

Startup leaders are no strangers to uncertainty, but the macroeconomic, epidemiological and public policy variables introduced by COVID-19 are new to most of us leading strategic planning and trying to predict where the world is heading. This builder is designed to help you coalesce thousands of variables and infinite futures into a small, actionable set of archetypical scenarios to make sense of what the next 12 months may have in store.

For each step below, we’ve included an example response for a fictional corporate catering service. Duplicate this template to get to work on your own company's plan.

Step 1: Identify key uncertainties.

To start this process, identify the 6-10 key uncertainties introduced by COVID-19 for the next year. Everyone’s list will be different. Focus on what you think will have the most profound effect on your company's prospects and strategies and be sure to include a range, from macroeconomic and public health uncertainties to those concerning your market, customers, and other stakeholders.

Step 2: Bucket them into scenarios.

Using combinations of outcomes from your uncertainties list, create three scenarios: a best case, a worst case, and one that splits the difference. Think carefully about how you assemble them, so each scenario captures a plausible combination of outcomes and a useful business case. To bring them to life, we suggest giving each of your scenarios a name and narrative, so they feel less abstract and more tailored to your company’s specific situation.

Step 3: Craft responses.

If your scenarios describe where the world might be heading, your responses answer the question “now what?” Regardless of which future arrives, one thing’s clear — it will favor the companies that moved fast. Do so by generating responses for each that can drive specific decisions and actions at a more granular level. Use something like the table below to think through how your business game plan will change scenario-by-scenario.

Step 4: Look for trigger points.

While the planning process itself has value, we find these scenario plans are made more useful (and less abstract) when you can implement them based on concrete internal and macro triggers. For each scenario, come up with triggers to identify when that version of the world might be starting to unfold.