Scenarios - Main Users / Purpose

files/images_static/user.jpg Regional planners, district planners, project planners, industrialists, corporate planners, etc.
files/images_static/thinker.jpg Scenario analysis originated as a military planning tool after the Second World War. Since General Electric and Royal Dutch/Shell adopted the practice in the late 1960s, the approach has been used regularly in strategic decision support in commercial organisations. Since then the application of scenario analysis has diverged to many sectors of the business community from ICT to beverages, consumer durables to financial services. In the past two decades, government institutions have also increasingly adopted scenario analysis in strategic policy making processes. The use of scenario analysis has traditionally been for planning purposes. In the past fifteen years, however, this has become more diffuse. Nowadays its application varies from planning to teambuilding, vision development to conscience raising and communication.

A typical feature of contemporary scenario analysis is the involvement of decision-makers and important stakeholders in the scenario development process. The involvement may be limited to a single interview, but it can also involve participating in several workshops that may run for several days at a time. Scenario analysis involves two elements: the construction of alternative scenarios relevant to a particular organisation and the integration of the content of these into the organisation’s decision-making. Scenarios are developed in sets of usually three or four to study how an organisation or one of its strategic options would fare in each future set. Although many business, governmental and consulting organisations have developed their own particular approaches to crafting scenarios, in general the scenario learning methodologies incorporate each of the following elements into the scenarios:

  • driving forces are forces that shape and propel the story described in a particular plot.
  • logics provide the explanation of why specific forces or players behave as they do.
  • the plot contains a story that connects the present to the end state.
  • the end state is a description of what would happen at the end point of the time horizon.
The method was designed to challenge the mind-set of participants by developing plausible alternative futures, and establishing a dialogue between members usually from within an organisation. It facilitates the free-ranging exchange of ideas, perceptions and concerns. Scenario analysis is an aid to understand how the world might unfold and how that understanding can be used in strategic planning for an organisation.