Scenario planning

Scenario planning is a way of helping organisations consider how uncertain trends might shape the environment in which they will be working, say, five years ahead. It involves the systematic identification of external trends and forces which will have a high impact on the organisation and are also very uncertain, and developing plausible visions of a range of different futures.

Scenario planning can be used both to look generally at what might happen in the environment (for example, the effect on the economy if the government changes) and to help think specifically about how an organisation might fare within that particular environment.

Benefits

Developing scenarios can help you understand the dynamics of change and makes the future more tangible and less frightening. When an organisation understands possible changes, and can put them in context, it is in a far better position to protect itself against possible threats. Exploring shared visions of the future can also increase organisational learning and encourage creativity.

Limitations

It can seem at first to be a complex process and a lot of work for little tangible return. So it may be hard to get people to agree to take part. Some scenarios you create may be disheartening, so you’ll need to manage people’s responses carefully. However much research you put in, remember each scenario is only ever a possibility.

When to use it

You can use this tool to help assess uncertainties in your external environment before you begin to open up choices for the future.

What are your experiences of using this tool? Share your triumphs and tribulations with our network members or write your own tips by commenting on this page.

More information about this tool is included in our guide Picture This: a guide to scenario planning for voluntary organisations.

Last updated at 14:35 Tue 30/Nov/10.

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