11 Sep Planning For an Uncertain Future

As we head into the fourth quarter, we encourage practices to start planning for the coming year. The process, as with just about everything else around us, looks very different right now.

At this point, you may be asking yourself, “How can I decide what we want to accomplish ten months from now when there’s no way to know what’s coming tomorrow?” A sense of anxiety about the future is a rational response to the events and upheavals of 2020.

Here’s one way to mitigate analysis paralysis as we look ahead to 2021.

Scenario planning is a multifaceted approach to setting practice strategy when the future is unclear. Thinking through what might happen in the future will allow you to be both proactive and nimble during the time ahead.

Avoid becoming overwhelmed by the scope of the planning process by focusing on one key goal for the coming year.


  • What is the goal you are trying to achieve or issue that you’re trying to assess?
  • What is your timeframe for achieving that goal or resolving the issue?
  • What information do you have right now that will help you during the assessment process?
  • What information will you need to gather?
  • Who will be your key team members?

Brainstorm 3 Possible Scenarios 

Remember- keep the scope manageable and focus on your key goal or issue: 

  • Best-case: What will your achievement actions look like if the practice environment improves?
  • Steady-state: What actions will you take if the situation remains the same as it stands currently?
  • Worst-case: What will achieving your goal look like if the situation deteriorates?

An important note– avoid becoming fixated on one scenario. From a psychological standpoint, it’s easy to gravitate towards the best-case or worst-case scenarios and fall into rumination. Do your best to step back and look at all three possibilities equally during the process.


  • What are the key implications of each scenario? What might each mean for patient impacts, practice operations, finances, and staff?
  • What are three major external factors that will impact your scenarios?
  • What are some potential internal limiting factors within your practice? This could include staffing, technology, or time, among other things.


  • Take each scenario in turn, and break down the key implications of each:
    • What do you have the ability to change?
    • How will you encourage positive results?
    • How will you address possible negative impacts?
  • How will you know which scenario you’re in?
    • What are the indicators that will help you recognize which path you’re on?
    • How will you adjust to a shift in scenario? Assess how ready you, your partners, and your staff are to pivot quickly.
  • What is the likelihood of each scenario happening?
    • Use the information and knowledge you have right now.
    • What steps will you take to move towards the most likely scenario?

If you’d like a little more reading on the topic, here’s a McKinsey article about scenario planning. While focused on the corporate sector, this article gives further language to the level of uncertainty we encounter and how to plan accordingly.

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