Scenario orientation and use to support strategy development

O'Brien, Frances A. and Meadows, Maureen (2013). Scenario orientation and use to support strategy development. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 80(4) pp. 643–656.



Scenario planning is one of the tools consistently reported as being used by executives to support their business development. A scenario planning project typically consists of three phases — preparation, development and use. This paper focuses on the third phase, where the scenarios that have been developed are put to their intended use in the context of developing strategy. Significant problems have been experienced as scenario projects move into this critical phase, perhaps due to a failure to link scenario development with strategy creation and execution efforts. These issues are explored via a case study of a large UK organisation operating in the transport sector, where a scenario-based strategy development exercise was used to support the leadership development of senior managers. We propose that a scenario orientation phase is a valuable missing link in many scenario projects, which can establish a bridge between scenario development and scenario use. Scenario orientation is a process of familiarisation with the scenarios that involves understanding their nature in some detail. This can be a crucial step, particularly if there is a significant time lapse between scenario development and scenario use, or if the people using the scenarios were not involved in their development. Without a good orientation to the scenarios, participants in a scenario planning exercise may be poor at the subsequent activities that require their explicit use.

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