Brief Introduction to Scenario Planning
Scenario Planning is a method for exploring the future that creates several plausible but challenging alternative futures rather than a single prediction. Why do this?
- A prediction is never right - the unexpected always happens and the assumptions, conscious and unconscious that apply today may not apply tomorrow.
- You either agree or disagree with a single prediction so it is difficult to gain consensus. Because scenario planning is not trying to predict the future, but only find plausible futures, consensus becomes possible.
- Good scenarios challenge our thinking and stimulate discussion, helping organisations to create a common language to talk about the future.
The scenarios to develop are chosen because they represent the extremes of uncertainty. It is traditional to choose two areas of uncertainty related to the area of study, giving four scenarios. In our case, considering the impact on Ireland or energy supply and price in the future, we thought the following areas relatively certain:
- Demand for energy is increasing
- Ireland has limited local supplies of fossil fuels and must import an increasing proportion (90% in 2004)
- Fossil fuel supplies are finite
And the following, the key areas of uncertainty:
- Time at which fossil fuel supplies will not be able to meet demand (Peak Oil)
- Whether we will be proactive or reactive in dealing with Peak Oil
Giving us four scenarios:
- Peak Oil distant, Reactive response - Business As Usual
- Peak Oil distant, Proactive response - Enlightened Transition
- Peak Oil soon, Reactive response - Localisation
- Peak Oil soon, Proactive response - Fair Shares
If we develop these scenarios well, they will be:
- Very different from each other
- Very different from today
- Vivid pictures of what the future might be like
Having developed four scenario worlds, normal planning takes place, but can be challenged by looking at the impact of the scenarios on those plans.
Find out more...
- What people are discussing online - http://www.technorati.com/tag/scenario%20planning
- Wikipedia entry for Scenario Planning - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scenario_planning
- Plotting Your scenarios - an introduction to scenario planning - http://www.gbn.com/ArticleDisplayServlet.srv?aid=34550 (PDF)
- Scenario Planning Research and References - links to scenarios developed elsewhere for different sectors.