Scenario Planning: The Key to Anticipating and Preparing for Business Surprises

Scenario planning is a strategic planning method that helps organisations anticipate and prepare for a range of possible futures. It involves creating a set of plausible scenarios, or stories, that describe different possible outcomes, and then using these scenarios to identify potential risks and opportunities. This approach allows organisations to be proactive in addressing potential challenges and to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

Adam Kahane, a consultant and author, is credited with popularising the use of scenario planning in the business world. He has worked with organisations such as Royal Dutch Shell and the World Bank to help them use scenario planning to better anticipate and respond to changes in the global economy, political landscape, and other factors that can impact their operations.

Arie de Geus, a former Shell executive, also played a key role in the development of scenario planning at Royal Dutch Shell. He is credited with creating the company’s “planning for uncertainty” approach, which uses scenario planning to help the company prepare for a wide range of potential futures. This approach has been credited with helping the company navigate a number of major disruptions, including the oil price shocks of the 1970s and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
One of the key benefits of scenario planning is that it helps organisations to minimise business surprises. By anticipating and preparing for a wide range of potential futures, organisations can be more resilient and responsive to changes in their environment. This can help them to avoid costly mistakes and to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

Scenario planning also helps organisations to be more strategic in their decision-making. By identifying potential risks and opportunities, organisations can make more informed decisions about how to allocate resources and how to position themselves for future success.

In addition, scenario planning can also help organisations to be more adaptive and flexible. By regularly reviewing and updating their scenarios, organisations can be more ready for changes in their environment and can more easily adapt to new challenges and opportunities.

Overall, scenario planning is a powerful tool that can help organisations to be more resilient, strategic, and adaptive in the face of uncertainty. By anticipating and preparing for a wide range of potential futures, organisations can minimise business surprises and position themselves for success.


I’ve lost count of the number of folks I’ve encountered that see planning as sacrosanct, as gospel. I’ve also lost count of the number of occasions I’ve attempted to broach the subject with offers of e.g. dialogue and mutual exploration, only to be stonewalled.

In support of #NoPlanning, I offer the follow Ackoff quote:

“If you have the capacity for response to the unexpected, then you don’t have to plan for it. The important thing to do then is to continuously increase the capacity to respond to whatever occurs in the future.”

~ Russell Ackoff

I posit that #NoPlanning is the epitome of business agility.

Would you be willing to talk about it?

– Bob

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