Thursday, August 1, 2013

The three most important skills for generating effective scenarios and why I deem these skills to be important

Creative thinking and imagination
For the scenario planning to be successful there is a need for those taking part in the process to be creative in their thinking. Sargent (2011) describes how scenario planning requires multiple options to avoid dead ends.  This requires those involved to be able to identify a number of futures, as well as procedures and systems to meet the identified outcomes.  A lack of creative thinking will lead to similar outcomes, almost along the traditional strategic planning approach that is based on what is happening and what is likely to happen.

A systematic approach
Ways and Burbank (2005) outline a systematic approach to scenario planning.  Their process involves a series of six steps to work through: researching the driving forces; determining patterns of interaction; creating their scenarios; analyzing the implications; evaluating the scenarios; and monitoring the indicators.  These steps could be applied to any future forecasting through scenario planning, and are important because they provide a structured framework to ensure that, although the outcomes are uncertain, the methodology for preparing for a range of futures is consistent.
The ability to focus on the right issue
Miesing and van Ness (2007) highlight the need to identify the big question, the compelling scenario question.  This question will focus on the single overarching strategic issue for the organisation.  If this step is not taken to identify the most significant issue, then all other steps that follow, and the energy required to take these steps, are not done so for the best long term interests of the organisation as the focus should have been used in on another more relevant factor.

Miesing, P., & van Ness, R. K. (2007). Exercise: Scenario Planning. Organization Management Journal (Palgrave Macmillan Ltd.), 4(2), 148-167.

Sargent, K. (2011). scenario planning. Contract, 52(5), 60.

Ways, S. B., & Burbank, C. (2005). Scenario Planning. Public Roads, 69(2), 1.


  1. Hi Tim,

    I particularly like your last point, about being able to focus on the right issue. This is something I think is difficult in education....or it seems to me to be that way at the moment! Having a balance of creativity and systemic thinking is, I believe, one of the strengths of this way of planning.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts....I'm off to steal your resources! :p


  2. Hi Phillipa

    Thanks for your feedback. That focusing on the right thing is a really key point. Not doing so could lead to wasting a lot of time and resources on something that isn't really of any real benefit.

    BTW, I was very flattered to be referenced in your blog post!