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Scenario planning

Creating challenging and plausible views of the future 

What is scenario planning?

Scenarios are instruments for ordering people’s perceptions about alternative futures in which decisions made today might play out. A scenario embodies a plausible view or perception of the future in a given year linked to conditions in the present via an internally consistent sequence of events. A scenario could be described as a road map from the present to the future. 

Scenario planning is a strategic planning tool or method for improving decision making against a background of possible future environments. In simple terms, a scenario is an internally consistent account of how the external environment in which an organisation operates might develop and change over time. An organisation assessing long term prospects with the aid of scenarios as part of its strategic planning would typically build up multiple scenarios to make sense of the large number of diverse, but inter-connected factors in the external environment.

Why choose scenario planning?

If you are facing critical decisions for the future of your organisation or industry and the business environment is complex and dynamic with long lead times, then scenarios offer many advantages over traditional forecasting techniques. Scenarios can lead to better decision making for the future because they involve decision makers in learning about the forces shaping the future. Scenarios allow individuals and organisations to perceive unexpected influences in their business environments and to view the future through new and different lenses. Scenarios uncover new strategies and provide a framework for testing the robustness of new and existing strategies. Scenarios are tools for organisational learning.

How do your use scenario planning?

There are a number of different approaches to creating scenarios, but they all have a common starting point. That is to clearly formulate the topic or issue of importance to the client audience. The subsequent steps take you on a journey of learning and discovery, through identification of critical uncertainties to seeing how these factors can drive change in different ways with significantly different outcomes via the scenarios.

Four Scenes can help you design an approach to developing scenarios for your organisation or industry. Mike has extensive experience in facilitating scenario planning workshops and guiding the development of scenarios. Mike has worked with public and private sector organisations in Australia and overseas in the fields of information and telecommunications, forestry and wood products, scientific research and development and information services.

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