How Scenario Planning Changed Corporate Strategy

Harvard Business Review CoverIn their recent article in the Harvard Business Review Angela Wilkinson and Roland Kupers take us on a enjoyable and educational time travel to the early days of corporate scenario planning.

Having both worked for Shell they share how the globally renowned scenario planning practice has been born out of the failure of financial prediction tools. They reflect on how future visioning has expanded and matured to become powerful narrative descriptions about “plausible stories” about how the “business context” of Shell might develop.

They also talk about cycles of popularity in which the scenario planning team experienced periods of great triumph and times where the possibility of being shut down was imminent.

For anyone who wants to build successful corporate foresight practices the article is a must read. Particularly the discussion how to (1) create value in a corporate organization and how to (2) develop a high connectedness in the organization by linking to expected units such as corporate strategy, innovation management, and risk management and less expected units such as public affairs and leadership development, is highly enlightening.

Living in the FuturesThey conclude with seven  golden rules for success that are not only relevant for scenario planning, of which at least six can be applied also to corporate foresight practices in general:

  • Make it plausible not probable
  • Strike a balance between relevant and challenging
  • Tell stories that are memorable yet disposable
  • Add numbers to narrative
  • Scenarios open doors
  • Manage disagreement as an asset
  • Fit into a broader strategic management system

To read the full article follow the following link: Wilkinson, A., & Kupers, R. 2013. Living in the Futures. Harvard Business Review, 91(5): 119-127.


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