Characteristics of Good Scenario Processes and Good Scenarios

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May 18, 2013

Multiple Views:  There is always more than one scenario of the future.  A single view is a forecast.

Appropriate Context:  Scenarios are best applied when dealing with complex, highly uncertain situations where qualitative, non-quantifiable, and uncontrolled forces are at work. (e.g., social values, technology or regulations).

Objective:  The purpose of the process is to describe what could happen, not what we want to happen.  Scenarios must be internally consistent and possible.  They cannot contain contradictions in the logic or outcomes.  Similarly, if scenarios are viewed as impossible or not feasible, they will be rejected.  The challenge is to broaden our thinking without trespassing the unbelievable.

Open-Ended:  Scenarios are stories, grounded in the past and the present.  They do not provide precise details but include enough specifics to make them believable.  Challenging and engaging scenarios allow the reader to add details which bring the scenarios alive.

Focused and Relevant:  Scenarios must be relevant to the situation at hand.  They must focus on the uncertainties and driving forces relevant to strategic decisions under consideration by the organization.

Challenging:  The scenarios must challenge our thinking and expand our mental maps.  Scenarios should lead us to asking the “right question.”


David A. Jordan, DHA, MPA