Scenarios can’t predict the future!

Scenarios can’t predict the future, that is true, but scenario planning provides a greater good to organisations.   It is not used to predict the future; rather it is used to explore what possible futures lie ahead of us all to better prepare for eventualities.  Further the scenario planning process that organisations engage in, has great benefits for lifting thinking of all employees and providing them with a more strategic focus. Wiki.answers identifies further benefits of scenario planning.  The process can serve to challenge long-held company beliefs, it can help to change corporate culture and enables personnel to develop a common language when discussing strategic change.

Oliver Freeman of the Neville Freeman Agency talks of taking those involved in scenario planning to the future and then getting them to work their way back imagining the events that may occur.  He also points out that people within organisations all have something to contribute, their input plus the expertise of ‘remarkable people’ help to envision possible futures.  It is important too, the experts point out, that it is not just one ‘future’ that is envisioned, but all possible outcomes should be part of the brainstorming process.  From these 3 or 4 should be chosen to work with more rigorously.

In an article in Harvard Business Review in 1985, Wack describes the process:

“From this” (deep discussions with a range of experts) “the group aims to draw up a list of priorities, including things that will have the most impact on the issue under discussion and those whose outcome is the most uncertain. These priorities then form the basis for sketching out rough pictures of the future.”

It must be borne in mind that strategic planning and scenario planning differ in time, scenario planning has a much longer time frame.  It feeds into and supports strategic planning which is much more immediate in it’s scope.






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