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What is Scenario Planning?

July 27, 2017

Several new clients have asked recently for a quick summary of the whys and wherefores of scenario planning. We have produced a comprehensive round-up of what we see as the key issues and techniques in Scenario Planning – A Primer. But we thought that a quick blog to summarise some key points might be useful for those new to it or those, faced with Brexit issues, who are thinking of returning to it.

Brexit is a wonderful example of the difficult circumstances in which scenario planning can help organisations address the future. There is change ahead, but no one knows what will happen, few know how it might affect them, fewer have plans in hand to prepare themselves for change.

There are plenty of views about what might happen ranging from apocalypse to a nirvana of freedom from the shackles of foreign power. And it is likely that for each individual or organisation the impact will be different, ranging from not a lot to life changing.

The first stage of scenario planning is to identify the kind of possible key changes in the future that are likely to affect the organisation in the future. These of course are a matter of opinion, but in scenario planning the more diverse opinions the better. The process of scenario planning takes all these views, analyses them for probability and impact, groups them as similar or opposite in possible impact, and develops a number of plausible scenarios covering most of the biggest issues. These scenarios are mental models, they are qualitatively different, they present a range of possible futures. They give a framework and language that permits rational discussion about the different directions in which things may change, and what the organisation should do to prepare for whatever might be thrown at it

No narrow forecasts of what might happen, no arguments about what will happen, just consensus about the need to prepare for the future. As with other business techniques, the process itself and the participation by influential members of the organisation can be as important as the production of a plan, or plans, themselves.

If you feel the need to know more, please help yourself to an in depth read of our Scenario Planning – A Primer. Or you can see chapters of “Scenario Planning – managing for the future”, which is the standard text on MBA courses, on

Written by Nick Jackson, SAMI Principal.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of SAMI Consulting.

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