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The concept scenario originates from the dramatic and literary arts referring to the story line of a play. Scenario planning is one of a family of foresight processes which capture the dynamic of change by placing today's reality within the context of tomorrows' possibilities. (Day: 2001[1]).

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Web Resources

Before we review selected definitions, visit the following resources as a brief orientation to get started:

We will consider a few definitions to get a feel for what scenario planning is and how it is situated as a creative methodology for strategic planning.

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Consider the following definitions:


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  1. A summary of the plot of a play, etc., including information about its characters, scenes, etc. (The Free Dictionary: 2013[2]).
  2. A postulated sequence or development of events (Oxford Dictionaries: 2013[3]).
  3. A scenario is a "story" illustrating visions of possible future or aspects of possible future. Scenarios are not predictions about the future but rather similar to simulations of some possible futures (Joint Research Center 2005[4]).

Strategic planning

  1. Strategic planning is the process by which an organization envisions its future and develops the necessary procedures and operations to achieve that future. The basic steps of the strategic planning process include information gathering and analysis, identification of critical issues facing the organization, development of a strategic vision, mission review/revision and the development of strategic goals and strategies (Martinelli: 2001[5]).
  2. The process of determining a company's long-term goals and then identifying the best approach for achieving those goals ( 2013[6]).

Scenario planning

  1. Process of visualizing (1) what future conditions or events are probable, (2) what their consequences or effects would be like, and (3) how to respond to, or benefit from, them ( 2013[7].)
  2. Anchored in creativity and intuition, scenario planning is a strategy tool used to discover potential future environments in order to understand how today’s strategic decisions will have an impact on an organization in times to come. The key elements in scenario planning are creative thinking, imagination, an informal methodology and the use of qualitative, subjective information. (University of Technology Sydney: 2009[8]).
  3. A process of positing several informed, plausible an imagined alternative future environments in which decisions about the future may be played out, for the purposes of changing current thinking, improving decision making, enhancing human and organizational learning and improving performance (Chermack & Lynham: 2002[9])

Reflection on definitions

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  • In what ways do you think scenario planning is different from other methods used for strategy development?
  • Did you learn something new about scenarios or scenario planning? Something you didn't know before?

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  1. Day, R.S., Executive Director: Information and Communications Technology, Unisa 2001. Electronic correspondence 30 July.
  2. The Free Dictionary. 2013. Scenario
  3. Oxford Dictionaries. 2013. Scenario
  4. Joint Research Center, European Commission. 2005. Scenario Definition. FOR-LEARN Online Foresight Guide.
  5. Martinelli, F. 2001. Strategic planning Center for Community and Economic Development (CCED), University of Wisconsin Extension.
  6. 2013. Strategic planning
  7. 2013. Scenario planning
  8. University of Technology Sydney. 2009. Scenario Planning: Case Study 4.
  9. Chermack, T. J., & S.A. Lynham. 2002. Definitions and Outcome Variables of Scenario Planning. Human Resource Development Review 1(3): 366-383.