Scenario thinking can be used at several levels within an organisation, and in many different contexts, whether for specific projects or for overall strategic management. Some of the approaches are outlined here.
Create a stimulating, joint context
Discussing scenarios with colleagues within your organisation or in the wider sector can lead to new insights on strategy or direction and can also flag up possible constraints that might be encountered.
The scenarios included in this resource can be used to answer questions about:
- Needs and added value of the programme (from the perspective of each scenario)
- Programme goals and organisations
- Constraints and obstacles.
For this use you need to concentrate on the ‘generate options’ step.
Generic and specific scenarios can be used to identify risks at a project, service or technology level. The risk analysis can start with generating comments from a diverse set of stakeholders in the different scenarios. If the stakeholders do not participate in the workshop a separate brainstorm on their profile and a warming up exercise living through new beliefs and values should be incorporated into the workshop.
In order to secure a broad holistic analysis the workshop facilitator should prepare a list with potential problem categories. A proper (full-blown) risk analysis combines elements of the workshop generate option (risks from the perspective of several stakeholders and identifying potential actions to minimise risks) and test options (impact analysis of the risks and wind-tunnelling action).
For some projects and services the ‘generate options’ step will lead to more creative ideas.
Other projects/services might need a more focused programme working on a scenario specific design of the educational process and scenario specific profiles of future user groups (staff and students). Based on these processes and profiles they will identify (select, model) scenario-based requirements for services, software, technologies etc (scenario-based design).
Testing or ‘wind-tunnelling’
Project results can take several forms – they can be ideas, requirements, solutions. Results can be tested using generic or specific HE scenarios. In a test workshop project members use the scenarios to identify possible improvements, new possibilities and constraints (risks).
The most valuable insights are used to improve the project results. In order to run a successful test it is essential to have a list with specific and clearly defined options. (For rough generic ideas we recommend the use of generic scenarios, for specific ideas use the more detailed iterations that are covered in this resource under ‘scenario sets’). This process can grow to a formative evaluation of projects.
Scenarios can be used as:
- ‘Containers’ or receptacles for the topics/issues (or drivers) and the ‘string’ or groups of related activities
- Tests for consistency – making iterations to ensure contents are viable and that they are internally consistent. The scenarios can be refined over a period of time as participants in the process develop their ideas.
There are a number of benefits that can be gained from scenarios including the additional insight they can offer as well as the variety of perspectives on what the future could be.
Scenario planning: key characteristics
- A methodology for strategy development useful for organisations, programmes or projects acting in a highly dynamic environment taking complex and often risky decisions
- Provides rigour as well as opportunities to draw upon the creativity of those involved, resulting in new views and interpretations on important external developments
- Typically invo