Strategy Offering Turbo-Charged with Advanced Scenario Planning

Nicole-Anne BoyerAt a recent strategy update retreat with one of our clients, we introduced scenario planning as a front-end to their strategy process. The improvement was dramatic! One of the partners even queried us if we had been actively using scenario planning at the time we’d done their original strategy session. (We assured him that we hadn’t, that it was a new offering, and we had NOT been holding out on him!) He thought it added tremendous value and insight, and maintained that it should be part of their strategy process from here on out.

Much credit for the tremendous improvement between the two sessions goes to our associate, Nicole-Anne Boyer, founder of Adaptive Edge LLC. Since 2009, Ann, Charles and I have had the pleasure of collaborating with Nicole. From the start of our association, our strategic planning offering has been turbo-charged with the addition of robust scenario planning, strategic foresight and futures thinking. While I had thought I knew something of scenario planning before, I have been learning at a furious pace to come up-to-speed on the state of the art in scenario planning.

Scenario planning has been around for a very long time, but took significant strides forward, notably in the planning department at Royal Dutch Shell, and at the Global Business Network. It is now used widely in planning processes in business.

“According to Bain & Company’s annual survey of management tools, fewer than 40% of companies used scenario planning in 1999. But by 2006 its usage had risen to 70%.”
– The Economist, September 1st, 2008

I have been learning that there are as many forms and methods of scenario planning as there are practitioners, but there has been a clear evolution in the purpose and motive for scenario planning.

  • Inform Planning: Use the output of a scenario planning exercise to inform a conventional “out-think the future” strategy session.
  • Adapt to Future: Scenario planning becomes part of 1) a way of thought for leadership, and 2) an early warning system to help a company to adapt to future changes. One of the funders of modern scenario planning framed it so:

“The test of a good scenario is not whether it portrays the future accurately but whether it enables an organization to learn and adapt.”
– Peter Schwartz, The Art of the Long View

  • Shape the Future: The scenario planning process might be taken beyond the walls of the organization and involve the wider system we are trying to influence. The scenario planning process is then a catalyst in a broader, generative effort to shape our desired future. Put another way:

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”
– Alan Kay, Scientist and Apple Fellow

In our work at Ralston Consulting Inc., we have always focused on helping our clients develop the orientation and capacity for generative change to create their desired future. Our collaboration with Nicole has given our mission a tremendous boost!


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Date: Wednesday, December 11th, 2019 - 10:32:40am

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