Qualitative Scenario Planning

Strategic foresight has shown effective for organizations to enhance their perspective on the future and diligently prepare and place themselves in a favorable position to take advantage of opportunities (Appiah and Sarpong, 2015). One portion of the strategic foresight approach is the use of scenario planning, which surfaces assumptions held by decision makers in order to intentionally stimulate changes to how decision makers perceive their environment (Chermack, 2011). Scenario planning is a process of creating stories and using storytelling as a way to create a perspective on the future (Saunders, 2009).

This has given rise to the assumption that scenario planning is not quantitative, and lacks real data, making it more of an exercise of the imagination than serious strategy development. Scenario planning, however, is not done in a vacuum, and is a part of a process, following framing and scanning. These steps assist the process in narrowing the scope of focus and gathering necessary information on trends that will effect the scenario planning step (Sarpong & O’Regan, 2014). Though scenario planning relies more on the qualitative approach, its value has proven itself for organizations worldwide including the U.S Government (Chermack, 2011).

What managers must keep in mind is that quantitative data is a glance in the past and assumes the future will look similar. One quantitative reality of the future is that it will not look like the past, though, which is a lesson learned by the events of September 11, 2001. What this terrorist attack showed many organizations was that there is a need for short-term tactical thinking based on quantitative data, but there is also a need for long-term scenario planning with a futures methodology that contemplates multiple alternative backdrops (Kennedy et al., 2003).


Appiah, G., & Sarpong, D. (2015). On the influence of organisational routines on strategic foresight. Foresight : The Journal of Futures Studies, Strategic Thinking and Policy, 17(5), 512–527.

Chermack, T. J. (2011). Scenario planning in organizations: how to create, use, and assess scenarios. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.

Kennedy, P., Perrottet, C., & Thomas, C. (2003). Scenario planning after 9/11: managing the impact of a catastrophic event. Strategy & Leadership, 31(1), 4–13. http://doi.org/10.1108/10878570310455006

Sarpong, D., & O’Regan, N. (2014). The Organizing Dimensions of Strategic Foresight in High-Velocity Environments. Strategic Change, 23(3-4), 125–132. http://doi.org/10.1002/jsc.1965

Saunders, S. G. (2009). Scenario planning: a collage construction approach. Foresight, 11(2), 19–28. http://doi.org/10.1108/14636680910950129


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