Scenario planning resources

October 5, 2009 § Leave a comment

Flowing Systems

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Information resources on:

Systems thinking approach to scenario planning

Scenario Designs: An Overview is a 1973 RAND report by Peter DeLeon which contains some direction for developing scenarios. An important element of most models, simulations, or games is the “scenario,” which delineates the modeler’s conception of whatever he (or she) is attempting to represent. This report focuses upon the designing of scenarios for the political/military free-form games, but the underlying assumptions regarding the function of scenarios are shown to apply to a wide range of modeling exercises. Free, downloadable pdf file(s) are available on this page.

Using Scenarios for Strategic Planning: The scenario planning process systematically explores the uncertainty inherent in looking at the long-term future. The process involves developing a set of alternative descriptions of the future which differ from each other in fundamental ways via differences in technology, consumer expectations, or other factors. The goal of developing these multiple scenarios is not to improve the odds of correctly predicting the future, but rather to allow managers to fully understand the driving forces affecting the future. By understanding and recognizing these driving forces, the ability of managers to plan for alternative operating environments and to react to change is enhanced.

The Importance of “Wild Card” Scenarios (pdf) As I have understood my assignment for this paper and its accompanying talk, it is to construct one or more global scenarios and identify the methodology used to do so, highlighting key drivers, forces, and trends. The key driver I would like to concentrate on is surprise. Surprise is an obvious “driver” of the future, but, by definition, is basically unknowable and therefore of at best peripheral interest to most forecasting efforts. However, I do not believe that all surprise in the future is unknowable and will argue that certain kinds of surprises are avoidable, especially when using scenarios to help think about the future.

Scenario Based Decision-making Technique: Planning or decision making? The magic question, of course, is “Do real companies and real scenario teams, in fact, use this process for planning purposes?” My experience is that for the vast majority the answer is a resounding “No!” for three simple and compelling reasons:

  • CEO’s are uncomfortable in making a (perceived) fuzzy process their company’s primary planning method.
  • 80% or more of the creativity comes during the first few hours that scenario teams brainstorm their story elements, implications, and responses.
  • CEO’s are facing a critical issue and implicitly look to scenarios for help in making a decision now!

Original scenario planning concepts

Scenario Thinking – range of articles by the Global Business Network. Includes links to the useful booklets available as pdf files:

From scenario thinking to strategic action, by Ian Wilson of Wolf Enterprises. The basics of scenario planning (as compared to traditional planning) in a business environment.

How to build scenarios by Lawrence Wilkinson. An example of driving forces and development of scenarios as they shape the technological world. Colourful site, in more ways than one.

Scenario planning – your key to the future, by the Graduate School of Business, Curtin University, Australia. Short, readable introduction to scenario planning (pdf document).

Visioning in planning: is the practice based on sound theory? by Robert Shipley. Downloadable paper from Environment and Planning, Vol 34, January 2002.

Guides & Reports

Anticipating change: Scenarios: As a tool for adaptive forest management – a guide. By Eva Wollenberg et al. CIFOR 2000. Excellent, readable report on techniques and implementation issues in natural resource management. Includes a good discussion of different variations on the concept of scenarios. (warning: pdf – 2.5 MB).

Visions actions and requests across administrative levels; A methodological proposal for strategic planning in territorial development. Report on methodology and visioning tools by Natalie Beaulieu, CIAT and Montpellier 2002 (pdf).


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