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SCENARIO PLANNING: Create a Context

Allen Black

In my November blog post  Scenario Planning: Crystal Balling or Smart Business?, I looked at how scenario planning makes good business sense and shared a client success story. The example I used was part of a strategic planning session but scenario planning should not be thought exclusively as the domain of senior management engaged in weighty thinking about the future direction of the organization. In fact, I would suggest that scenario planning is one creative decision making technique that should be part of every manager's toolkit.

It can be used to answer questions at several levels within an organization, and in many different contexts, whether for specific projects or for overall strategic management. Clearly, the evidence suggests planners at all levels have found they need new tools to do their jobs and many have turned to scenario planning to help with their strategic thinking.

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What if...?

Here are but a few general examples where scenario planning has come into its own:

  • When help is needed to develop a picture of the broader environment and understand new business streams.
  • For new insights that will help to improve the quality of educated guesses.
  • With help in developing new product ideas and new markets.
  • With help in exploring old assumptions and rethinking strategies and plans that focus on competitive strengths, or to flag up possible constraints that might be encountered.
  • To help with identifying risks at a project, service or technology level and for identifying potential actions to minimize risks.
  • When project ideas, requirements, and/or solutions need to be tested.

The number of different ways where scenario planning can be used appears limitless and constrained only by one’s imagination, whereas, the benefits that can be gained from scenarios include the additional insight they can offer as well as the variety of perspectives on what the future could be.

Besides helping in decision making, scenario planning can also:

  • Help you keep an open mind
  • Help you embrace uncertainty and positive risk-taking
  • Engage staff in conversation
  • Build commitment and performance through shared experience
  • Enhance organizational learning

What is your experience on where and how scenario planning can be beneficial?

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About this Article

Posted by Allen Black
Posted on February 4, 2011
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Categories: planning & policy, risk management, strategy