State Policy Network
How to assess your strategy as election results come in
"Scenario planning" can put you ahead of the competition.

By Todd Davidson, State Policy Network’s Senior Director of Strategic Development

Preparing for a legislative session before knowing election outcomes, or the preferences of the newly elected, can be very difficult and may seem pointless. Why craft a detailed plan only to throw it out? At the same time, if we don’t plan, we’ll be caught flat-footed as the competition races ahead of us.
 
Fortunately, there is a flexible planning method for these situations called “scenario planning,” in which you devise possible scenarios and craft a loose plan for each. Doing so will speed up your post-election planning and put you ahead of the competition. You can do it in three easy steps. 

STEP ONE: Make a list of your current top 10 policy and organizational goals.

This is your starting position—what your team seeks to achieve right now.

Example:

  1. Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) reform for 5,000 kids becomes law by the end of 2021.
  2. We will have raised $2 million by December 31, 2021.
  3. Hire a digital strategist and launch an owned audience project by Q2.

STEP TWO: Create a rough list of possible scenarios you will face.

Who will the governor be and what will the majorities and factions be in the House and Senate? How could your state courts change? What are possible outcomes of ballot measures? Will there be social unrest?

The level of detail in scenarios is more art than science. It can help to start with broad scenarios first. If those scenarios are unhelpful to your decisions, narrow them down and be more specific. Avoid trying to predict the exact outcomes. The intent is to increase your plans’ flexibility regardless of the outcome, so use a bit of judgement to identify a range of likely outcomes.

Example:

  1. Republican trifecta maintained. Not much changes.
  2. New speaker is unfavorable to our policy priorities.
  3. Ballot Measure 4 passes, raising property taxes by 10 percent.

STEP THREE: Run each of your goals through the relevant scenarios.

Ask yourself the questions below to consider how the strategy for achieving your goals changes in each scenario.

Example:

Goal: ESA reform for 5,000 kids becomes law by the end of 2021.

  1. What are the chances we achieve our ESA goal given each scenario?
  2. What about each scenario presents a new opportunity for this goal?
  3. What about each scenario makes this goal more challenging?

STEP FOUR: Sketch out loose plans for a range of scenarios.

The point is not to craft detailed plans, it is to help you react quicker as you get more information. The sketched plan will act as a starting point after the election results are finalized. Ask yourself:

  1. Are our goals still relevant given all of these scenarios? Do we need to add or subtract from our goals list? What should be added or subtracted?
  2. What opportunities should we be ready to seize?
  3. What challenges should we be ready to address?

For now, that’s pretty much it. With your sketched plans ready to go, you’ll be in a better position to react after you know the final results.

Best of luck this year, and please reach out if you have any questions or would like help with scenario planning.

Organization: State Policy Network