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Scenario planning

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Scenarios don't help you predict the future, but they do help you anticipate it!

What is scenario planning

Sometimes it's helpful to involve stakeholders in thinking laterally about your shared future: five, 10 or maybe 15 years from now.  Scenario planning is a tool to help stimulate new thinking and explore uncertainties. Instead of focusing on what you know, you invest time on what you don't know. You paint some pictures and tell some stories...you'd be amazed where you might end up! Often you end up being a little more certain about the future.

Scenario planning is used to help assess uncertainties in your external environment before you begin to open up choices for the future.

Why use scenario planning

Scenario planning can be used both to look generally at what might happen in the environment (for example, the effect on the economy if the government changes) and to help think specifically about how an organisation might fare within that particular environment.

Developing scenarios can help you understand the dynamics of change and makes the future more tangible and less frightening. When an organisation understands possible changes, and can put them in context, it is in a far better position to protect itself against possible threats. Exploring shared visions of the future can also increase organisational learning and encourage creativity.

Limitations

It can seem at first to be a complex process and a lot of work for little tangible return. So it may be hard to get people to agree to take part. Some scenarios you create may be disheartening, so you’ll need to manage people’s responses carefully. However much research you put in, remember each scenario is only ever a possibility.

People who have used scenario planning before

Simon Blake talks about Brook's use of scenarios. He talks about their rationale for using scenarios, an overview of the process and a summary of the scenarios they used to feed into their strategy. The interview also has links to their 10-year strategic framework.

Useful links

If you are excited by the notion of doing scenarios work and want to investigate even more complex approaches, take a look at the Horizon Scanning Centres toolkit, and explore such things as visioning and wind-tunnelling!

(Help with reading PDFs - Adobe conversion tool is a free way to convert PDFs to web pages so you can read them online.)

Page last edited Jul 25, 2017

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