Planning of the Apes

There’s a phrase used by Lee Child in the Jack Reacher novels that goes ‘hope for the best, plan for the worst.

I’m thinking of getting a few copies for the idiots in charge of negotiating (ha ha) Brexit.

Yesterday our esteemed bloke appropriately in charge of the FO told the EU that they could go fuck themselves – he was marginally less offensive but the message was very much the same –

Of far more concern was his further admission that the government had “no plan” for what to do in the event of no deal being agreed with the EU”

Whilst Boris was playing to Mail and Express readers who are champing at the bit for a fight it seems rather cavalier to go into negotiations spoiling for fisticuffs – in particular when all you are carrying is a leaky water pistol.

Brexiteers are fond of shouting loudly that leaving the EU was a democratic decision, although I doubt that many of the 52% heard the words ‘leaving the single market’ or ‘customs union’ during the run up to the referendum. I doubt even more that they understand the implications today.

What the 52% voted for was more likely ‘£350 million a week for the NHS’ and keeping out the Turkish hordes that the xenophobic Mail insisted were about to invade.


Cameron’s stupidity in holding a referendum and his dire campaign made Mayhem’s decision to have a June election look like the epitome of strategic planning.

I know we’re stuck with it now, but I would have thought that maybe someone could have worked out what we might do if the EU doesn’t kow tow to our demands – someone like David Davis maybe? In case you haven’t noticed Dave it’s what your fucking job is!

This interesting piece from a Dr Mils Hills (no really!) is worth reading –

I used to be half of a two-person team in the UK Cabinet Office charged with developing scenarios. Scenarios are ‘plausible futures‘, positive or negative. They are credible fictions of how things could turn out – albeit embroidered with clear assumptions and creative licence.

Scenarios have great power because they enable policy options, plans, draft legislation and the people and processes that deliver these to be tested to judge their fitness for purpose under a range of circumstances. Little used in the business and government world (outside corporate behemoths such as Shell), I haver recently described for the first time the unique role that scenario-planning performed in the Civil Contingencies Secretariat (CCS) of the UK Cabinet Office.

In summary, there are three variants of scenario futures that can be used to develop, test or assure the utility of a policy or regulatory mechanism. Typically, these might be described as IDEAL, TOLERABLE and MUST AVOID.

What has been very striking amongst all of the ideological sloganeering and chatter around Brexit – and soundbites such as “no deal is better than a bad deal” – is that no-one inside or influential to government seems to have developed scenarios of, say, what a “no deal” situation would look and feel like for key demographics or industries. For all the talk of ‘frictionless trade‘ – how would this be experienced by a haulier, retailer, manufacturer, ferry company… under a range of outcomes (WTO rules, good deal).

What would be the changes (ideally expressed as benefits in daily life) felt by Joyce (51 years old, widowed, living in South Shields, part-time shop worker, waiting for a hip operation, enthusiastic grandmother)? What about for Adil (46, small business-owner in food processing, employing three individuals in Ashford, Kent, a father of two small daughters).

How would easyJet, Nissan, JCB, Aston-Martin, XPO… experience changes in a range of post-Brexit outcomes – and how and when would these begin to emerge?

Scenarios are really useful tools to explore what could happen and what might be needed to dodge a ‘MUST AVOID’ charybdis or achieve early warnings of challenges which can be navigated around – as a pilot does turbulence. Of course, the process can also throw up the uncomfortable fact that some potential policy options are nothing of the sort.

Scenario-planning (forensically, objectively, ethically) applied reveals the unvarnished truth. This speaks truth to power and prevents ‘groupthink’ that can creep into any community. These facts explain the early and heartfelt adoption of such approaches by the intelligence agencies and special forces operators. Like them, politicians cannot afford to be blinded by optimism and hope over gritty reality.

Brexit is such an exponentially massive challenge, with no clear waymarked routes other than the EU’s timetable, that scenario-planning is one of the very few ways that proponents could generate genuine policy options and that detractors could construct solid challenges to blind faith. Developed in fast, interactive sessions with industry players, regulators, consumers and others – scenarios should be being used exhaustively to structure detailed plans, explain and engage business and electoral audiences and raise the game of politicians in general.

Scenario planning eh?

Makes sense to me – although to be fair, I’m not a Daily hate-Mail reader.


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