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Scenario thinking in professional partnerships

September 10, 2014

Scenario thinking has historically been associated with Big Picture analysis – from Hermann Kahn onwards – and with corporate planning. More recently professional partnerships – law firms and accountants – have started to use scenario thinking to understand and plan for the seismic forces for change facing their industries.

While in some ways, the way on which professional partnerships organise themselves for scenario thinking is similar to public sector or corporate projects, in other ways it is very different.

The similarities are in the overall process design, based on a strategy cycle, the need to engage the Board and senior management, and the importance of connection to setting of priorities.Board awareness

There seem to be two main differences.

The first is in the extent to which partners and other influencers lead the process personally. This is sometimes through setting up Panels, geographically or sector based, with up to 10 staff and led by a senior partner or emerging leader, These Panels develop the strategic intelligence through desk research and interviews. All members of Panels are expected to undertake interviews – with clients, regulators or experts such as futurists. The Panels plus the Board then develop the scenarios, which are used by geographies and sectors to develop strategies.

The second difference is the extent to which the fact of the scenario process, the important trends and drivers of change, and the scenarios themselves, provide a totally new dimension to conversations with clients. Partners are able to engage with CEOs, when previously their main link was Legal Counsel. Junior Associates are able to add to their discussions with clients through understanding some of the key trends facing them.

These are some of the reasons that ARK are running a Masterclass in London on 7th October, on “Scenario Thinking for Law Firms”. For more details contact

Written by Gill Ringland.

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