"But we don't know what will happen!"
This may seem a good reason to avoid planning. In agriculture, the reality is that there are many factors that impact your business which you cannot control.
Many times, I've heard people say "no point doing a budget/plan as we don't know what will happen". Given that we don't know what will happen, what if we think through what could happen?
In his book Mind of a Fox, Clem Sunter refers to this as 'scenario planning'. Here, he suggests we think like a fox, constantly looking ahead at all the options, not just 'head down, bum up'.
For example, instead of trying to guess when it will rain (or not thinking ahead at all), consider the scenarios about when it could rain. You could get good rain early in the wet season, or mid wet season, or late wet season, or... not at all. Any of these scenarios might become your reality this year. Unfortunately, today, you don't know which one it will be. What potential scenarios could unfold for you?
Whatever those scenarios might be, look at each of them and ask, "How would we manage things if that scenario was the one that became reality?" Within each scenario, what are your available options?
A lot of businesses are currently in survival mode and it can be hard to think beyond the stresses of today. While scenario planning might seem like a lot of 'just in case' work, I find this approach takes a lot of pressure off thinking ahead and making decisions, as it forces you to be prepared for what might happen, rather than react to what does happen.
Given enough thought and bit of effort, you can come up with some good ideas on how to manage whatever comes your way. There may be some good options available to you now, that help you to best manage your way through any of these scenarios; options that set you up for a win.
As the season unfolds, some of the potential scenarios will disappear (e.g. if it hasn't rained by Christmas the early wet scenario has gone) and you can remain proactive by working with the available options of what scenarios remain.
Work with your current reality and keep considering the potential scenarios ahead of you.
- David McLean is the chairman of consulting and education company RCS Australia.