Scenario Planning: A Simple and Quick Guide

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The future is not simply an extension of the present.To have the future you want, you must anticipate what it will be; then continually plan and act in the present to create it.Value: To take an educated guess at what the future will look like and how it will effect your business. This exercise should help provide a “pull” mentality to assist raising questions and possible answers – to help you think more strategically.Process:

  1. Brainstorm key variables that might effect your business in the next 1 – 5 years. These might include trends in society (demographics), economics, politics, technology, etc. (E.g. – aging population, global health care concerns, tight money, war/terrorism/peace, offshore manufacturing/service)
  2. Select the two (2) variables that you believe will have the greatest effect on your business environment.
  3. Create a continuum for each variable. Often this is as simple as one end being more of that variable; the other being less of that variable. (E.g. – interest rates staying near all time lows to significantly higher interest rates; or telecommunications technology status quo to major breakthrough in telecommunications technology)
  4. Draw one continuum horizontally and the other vertically to construct a four quadrant design.
  5. Tell a story (scenario) of the future that describes each quadrant.  For example:

(Q1) telecommunications breakthrough at a time of low interest rates;

(Q2) significant telecommunications breakthrough at a time of high interest rates;
(Q3) status quo of telecommunications technology with low interest rates; and
(Q4) status quo of telecommunications technology with high interest rates.)

6.  Describe as much as you can about that potential future state. Each scenario must be relevant, plausible, challenging, and indicate an emergent future different from the current path. Answer questions such as:

bullet Who will our customers be in 3 years?
bullet What sales channels will be best to reach these customers?
bullet What new products will we (and our competitors) have on the market at that time?
bullet What sources will we be using to access raw materials?
bullet How easy or difficult will it be to attract and retain employees for our organization?
bullet What equipment will we have to do the work of our organization?
bullet What will have happened that we had no ideas about today?

7.   Choose the two (2) quadrants that you feel are most likely.

8.   Plan what to do to prepare for those futures.


What are the BIG questions this exercise raises for you that you should bring to your Vistage group for further exploration and discussion?  See worksheet.