Scenarios provide a rich framework for on-the-job mentoring.
Using a scenario in a mentoring relationship enables both parties to examine a familiar situation (whether need, problem, challenge or opportunity) from a different perspective. Examples include changing:
- the ‘people’ factor,
- the purpose, end-result or expected outcome, and/or
- the context within which the situation is being discussed or examined.
Any situation can be broken down into three major components:
- people (those involved with or affected by the situation),
- task (the end to be achieved), and
- environment (the context within which the people will be involved with or affected by the task.
Change any one of these three components, and you are on your way to creating a scenario.
Examining a known situation by changing one or more of these three major components allows and invites both a means of examining an existing situation, or a means of creating a new situation.
Applying this tool to a risk scenario can assist an on-the-job mentoring relationship to explore a wide range of possibilities for an existing – or potential – situation.
The initial discussion can focus on risks by considering:
- the ‘worst possible’ situation – ‘what would we do if xxx were to happen – how would we recognize the possibility of it occurring and therefore avoid it, and how would we manage it should it occur’. This risk scenario is more common than most, but it doesn’t usually lead to an innovative exploration of risk.
- the ‘best possible’ situation – ‘what is we were to receive an untagged gift or bequest of $5m – would we write off our debt, invest, build up our inventory, hire more staff, expand our facility, create a new service or product, give everyone a bonus, create a foundation to spread our good fortune to those less well off?’. What happens with this risk scenario is that the organisation’s culture and/or values can become apparent for the first time, conflict can occur among the decision-makers as to what should be done with this windfall, external stakeholder or community expectations can become a key factor, or accusations can surface about the motives of key people.
- the ‘most unlikely’ situation – ‘imagine xxx happening in or to our organisation!’. For example, imagine a major earthquake, an explosion, computer melt-down, a take-over, cancellation of our five best customer orders. A suggestion is to take a headline event from the day’s news media, and apply the headline event to your own organisation, community, personnel or customer base.
To obtain the best possible discussion from an on-the-job mentoring risk scenario, the parties involved should attempt to place themselves ‘outside the box’: this involves a substantial mental effort – because taking oneself outside the box is different, and easier, than thinking outside the box.
If you are thinking outside the box, you are only adopting an outside the box perspective.
If you are taking yourself outside the box, you are removing yourself from the situation altogether – meaning that you are not comparing yourself with any aspect of the risk scenario, but moving from a participant to an observer.
Do visit Jean’s definition of a case study or scenario while you are thinking about using a risk scenario for on-the-job mentoring.