Artful scenario spinning is a form of convergent thinking about divergent futures
Steward Brand was in essence explaining the concept of scenario thinking from a broader perspective. Indeed, scenario planning passes out as a courageous look into the future. As Brand puts it, scenario thinking focuses on predicting the future outcomes of decision models. In this regard, scenario planning can be rightly perceived as a thought process of the divergent futures. However, the requirement to pool the thought processes together to come up with a comprehensive state of affairs brings out the convergence of thought. Brand later observes this as convergent thinking of the divergent futures. In addition, one would want to consider scenario planning as a full process through which situations are examined, and their likely outcomes and results skewed towards the achievement of strategic firm objectives.
The central idea in scenario planning does not lie in the predictions; rather, the idea is objective analysis of situations so as to obtain a thoroughly considered solution that would address the shortfalls arising in the future. Brand might have brought in the aspect of spinning because of the spin process inherent in scenario planning. The plan itself goes through a comprehensive system in which numerous stages are involved. Accordingly, Brand sought to best describe the procedural step by step planning as a spinning process. Ultimately, what comes out is the fact that scenario planning goes through a series of convergent thinking about the divergence in the future.
Process of scenarios
The process of scenarios refers to the through put process in which scenario planning occurs. Ordinarily, this process follows a definite course that is rather procedural and definite course. The author asserts that scenario process does not necessarily equate to predictions or strategy formulations. Rather, the process refers to the journey that scenario planners follow. The author provides eight main stages in the scenario process. The stages ought to be followed as a matter of procedure, and the avoidance of one stage affects the larger process negatively. Perhaps we briefly examine the stages in the scenario planning.
It starts from identification of focal issue or decision question. In this stage, the requirement is for the central issue to be observed and set out. Usually, one essential management maxim is that a problem cannot be solved without first and foremost identifying the problem. After identification of the problem, the next step involves analysis of key forces in the environment. According to the author’s script, one ought to be fully aware and cognizant of environmental forces relevant to the decision question or problem. The next stage then involves identification of relevant driving forces. These driving forces would be instrumental in choosing the best model that essentially solves the matters at hand.
It is after identification of the driving forces that the ranking process begins. Ordinarily, the idea in ranking has a purely decisional motive in that choice would be tied to the ranking with priority being given to the highly ranked options. The next stage then entails the selection of scenario logistics, a process in which various aspects are considered. The next stage entails flashing out a scenario of choice. In this stage, the selected option is analysed, and modalities put in place. Finally, the implications of the scenario model employed are considered and analysed. The entire process is what forms the scenario process.
Ingvar’s concept of memories of the future
According to Ingvar, in his memories of the future treatise, he argues that the human mind keeps telling itself accounts about the future. The human mind will always be fascinated about the future. Often the mind gives an account of possible future outcomes concerning a situation. Ingvar observes that alcoholism reduces the ability of humans to give an account of possible future events. He appears to pour scorn on alcohol. According to Ingvar, the memories in human beings enable them predict future outcomes and occurrences. It is this fascination that Ingvar denotes as the memories of the future .
In the same strain, Ingvar correctly observes that these abilities could be employed in synthesizing the scenario in business models. A scenario planning develops from the human possibility of prediction of futures. Expected outcomes are analysed and examined in light of pursuits that would maximize the competitive position of firms. The concept of the future of memories, therefore, remains one vital aspect that can be used in modelling a scenario planning program.
Swartz’s steps to developing scenario
Swartz outlines an absolute outline that need to be followed in the development of a scenario. According to his hypothesis, he embraces a clear step by step approach in the solution of scenarios. Developing a scenario should be procedural. He gives eight main steps in the development of a scenario. Accordingly, development should adopt the stage by stage model of implementation. Some of the important aspects that he brings out include the following: identification of the decision problem or question, performance of research, identification of key elements, outlining of key plots and lastly implementation . The stages are discussed below.
First stage should be the identification of the decision problem or question. In this stage, the call dictates for the observation of purpose and objectives. Exactly what is the concern of the process in whole? What mission should be accomplished at the end of the process? Ordinarily, this process could be viewed by an analyst as obvious and clear, yet it could as well be the beginning of failure. The start of the process focuses the entire journey and as such, it as to be in line with the objects and mission. Next, the process moves to the performance of research. In this stage, the planners ought to examine all possible decision models and alternatives. Different scenarios and situation should be looked into to ensure settling on the right model. The objective should be to capture all possible options and settle for the best that would address business requirements extensively. After performance of comprehensive research, the planners need to seek key elements in the scenario process. Key elements in this case refer to the fundamental elements that constitute the life and body of the scenario .
It would be prudent for scenario planners to consider and acknowledge all key elements initially rather than face obstacles at the implementation stages. Next stage involves the identification of new plots that could be employed in scenario analysis. A new culture encouraged is for the newer methods to be chatted out and employed in implementation rather than use old methods. Lastly, scenario proceeds to full implementation, which forms the main portion of the entire process.
Shell use of scenario planning
Shell employed scenario planning especially during the author’s tenure and his partial consultancy with the firm. Indeed, scenario planning in the context of Shell was essential for the prediction of likely outcomes in the vulnerable oil industry. According to industry analysts and observers, costs of oil and gas were going to rise. Shell had to change the mindset of its employees so as to position itself strategically for the likely market overtures and undercurrents. It was the observation of planners that gas and oil prices would not only increase due to increased demand, but also political systems could necessarily become unstable making the precious resource scarce. So as, to protect itself from the ravages of uncertainties, Shell decided to perform a scenario that also outlined a course of action to be pursued. Planners in the system came out with a model that would tactically articulate the best decision model. The decision model approach that Shell employed aided it in the settlement for the best solution that addressed issued collectively and positioned the company strategically cushioning itself from possible uncertainties in the industry.
Difference between scenario planning and western strategic planning
Western Strategic planning embraces a sequential approach with predictions that rely on accuracies and certainties. In scenario planning, the crux does not lie in predictions or accuracies; rather, it lies in the simulation of different approaches and settlement on one plan for purposes of implementation. Strategic planning also does not necessarily consider an array of possibilities. The approach in strategic planning entails outlining a definite desired outcome and employing mechanisms for its achievement. However, in scenario planning, possible outcomes are examined and the one that best addresses organizational desires and objectives is adopted.
Importance of scenario planning approach in successful change and development
The approach in scenario planning essentially examines options that could be possibly undertaken for purposes of attaining success. In the implementing change and development, it is essential for a positive and open approach to be adopted. The approach in scenarios facilitates a wide array of options and decision alternatives that would be necessary for implementation of change and development in organizations. It would be essential for organizations to adopt change albeit without the rigidities inherent in organizational set ups. Another derived advantage from scenario planning model could be seen in light of the possibility to formulate situations and outcomes prior to implementation. In implementing change and development, organizations would be faced with a wide array of options and solutions at their disposal.
Information hunting and gathering
Information hunting and gathering in scenario planning would be categorised under research performance stage. In this stage, all aspects of key elements and driving forces are examined and analysed. In information hunting, the objective is found in the need to collect all possible data and facts in the driving forces or key elements. One needs to research in depth without any limitations. The process could be approached differently and need not be constrained by a particular approach. Planners would examine the viability of solutions and give added information that supports their assertions.
Ordinarily, the stage should take an informal approach which could perhaps also involve brainstorming sessions. A group approach to information hunting would ensure fruitful results compared to individual approach. After hunting for information, it should be gathered together for purposes of use in the next stages. In gathering, the information should be meticulously churned through so that necessary information is sieved out and the unnecessary chaff is left out.
Use of plots in scenario planning
Plots refer to step to step flow of processes. In scenario planning, plot refers to the sequence of flow of scenario process. The author argues that scenario planning can be plotted so that the flow can be definite and predictable. In employing plots, planners must necessarily consider essential aspects that go into designing the process in the spirit of the plot.
Global Business Network
Global Business Network is a firm that offers consultancy services that are triggered to bolster the position of firms in the market. As such, GBN collects relevant data and information and employs scenario planning to offer strategic and comprehensive advice to firms. The objective of the company is to employ the technological hedge and advancements at its disposal for solution of market problems facing firms. They develop and synthesize ideas and concepts skewed towards cushioning firms against likely market uncertainties. Finally, it should be appreciated that Global Business Networks employs their expertise in scenario planning, experimental learning and visionaries to devise solutions to industrial challenges and volatilities. The concept of consultancy is gaining currency in the market today. Firms have become receptive of the idea to employ external parties to synthesize their problems and device solutions. Global Business Network is a manifestation of the same approach.
Global Business Network. (2012, March 29). Consulting . Retrieved October 24, 2012, from Global Business Network: http://gbn.com/consulting/
Ringland, G. (2006). Scenario planning:managing for the future. New York: Wiley.
Schwartz, P. (1991). The Art of the Long View. New York: Doubleday Dell.