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In changing times with many uncertainties, managers need planning processes that encourage flexibility and creativity.We can think strategically about the future; we can envision an ideal future. But in the practical, real world of decision-making, we need a system that helps us to both think the unthinkable and plan for multiple options. We can not always guess correctly about the future, so we need to design techniques that let us envision a variety of options and then plan for those possibilities.
One technique that can help managers plan for multiple futures is scenario-driven planning. Scenario planning is a structured, disciplined technique for identifying key driving forces in the environment that have an impact on the organization and then using that information to design a series of scenarios or stories that describe possible futures. Using these stories, managers can design strategies that will help the organization reach its goal under a variety of circumstances. The stories help managers identify their own assumptions about the future and test those assumptions as they review and renew the scenarios.
The result of scenario planning exercise is not an accurate prediction of the future. Rather, the stories provide managers with options to consider and help managers create their own futures. Managers can make better decisions when they have considered, discussed, and imagined a variety of options and not just worst case, best case scenarios.
In this paper I will outline the technique of scenario planning and then provide the results of a mini-scenario-planning process we used at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to look at collection development and digital information.