Scenario Planning Publications
We’ve had a lot to say over the years about the future. Here is a continuously growing and evolving archive of many of our commentaries, analyses, and discussions of best practices for staying ahead of change and disruption. We hope to provide students and practitioners of strategic foresight and scenario planning with both food for expansive thinking and practical tips on strategy, scenario development and strategy execution.
FSG is particularly proud of the profile of our scenario planning work with the US Coast Guard, which appeared in the July/Aug 2020 edition of the Harvard Business Review.
2020 US Presidential Scenarios
There are few if any events as consequential for the future as a US presidential election. In early 2020 FSG principals created four short-term US presidential scenarios exploring a range of plausible political and policy outcomes for the next four years. These were not predictions or forecasts; rather they were alternative narratives about how events in the US (including the economy and the COVID-19 pandemic) could play out. The fundamental idea, as in all scenario planning activities, is to take every plausible future operating environment seriously, and consider all associated risks, challenges and opportunities.
Health Care Scenarios: Selected Insights from ACGME's Strategic Planning
If any US industry begs for scenario planning, it is health care. Demographics, technology, government finances, provider mega-mergers and changing public expectations are converging in complex and unpredictable ways. The only thing we know for certain is that the future health care environment will look very different than it does today. Executives need to think systematically about the range of plausible health care futures, taking all this complexity and uncertainty into account. FSG scenario planning is focused on managing that uncertainty.
ACGME Health Care Scenarios
Over the last several years we have been helping one visionary organization – the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) use scenario planning to get out ahead of the changes sweeping through health care and medical education. This is the story of ACGME’s intial foray into scenario planning, which continues to this day, under FSG’s direction. FSG is grateful to ACGME’s Thomas Nasca, MD and Charles Thomas for contributing this article, which was originally published in the March 2015 issue of the Journal of Graduate Medical Education.
The Future of Media & Marketing
As media and marketing have evolved together, the future of one has to be considered alongside the other.
Scenarios and Quantitative Modeling: An Automotive Case Study
Scenario planning and market forecasting are typically at odds with one another. Scenarios are a tool for managing in highly uncertain, typically longer-term environments. They leverage the imagination and judgment of planners, unencumbered by what happened in the past. Market modeling, in contrast, has a predictive function. It's a useful -- indeed essential -- tool for short-term forecasts in relatively stable business environments.
The case for combining scenarios and quantitative modeling
A major automotive producer asked FSG principals to estimate the range of automotive demand in a Latin American market characterized by economic volatility and political uncertainty. This case study describes our approach and the lessons we learned as we blended scenarios and quantitative modeling. It originally appeared in a 2013 edition of the journal Strategy & Leadership.
Strategic Intent in the Coast Guard
The Coast Guard publication, Creating and Sustaining Strategic Intent in the US Coast Guard, is the culmination of a multi-year collaboration with FSG. You can download the 2013 edition here.
Presidential Election Scenarios
Because It's There
Wade Davis, an anthropologist, recently published Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest. It holds lessons not only for mountaineers and other adventure travelers, but also for other realms of human endeavor, business and strategy in particular.
The Devil’s Dictionary of Business Strategy, Vol. II
The Devil’s Dictionary of Business Strategy
Overcoming Opportunity Blindness and Path Dependence: How to Think Your Way to Multiple Futures
Collective Intelligence’s Kevin McDermott and FSG principal Peter Kennedy make the case for adopting scenario analysis as a tool for fostering innovative thinking. Their article, “Overcoming Opportunity Blindness and Path Dependence: How to Think Your Way to Multiple Futures,” appeared in the May 2011 issue of InnovationManagement. Drawing deeply on their consulting experiences and observations, Kevin and Peter maintain that “strategic confidence” is a critical success factor in a world of disruptive and unpredictable change. Only by rehearsing a range of plausible alternative futures—scenarios—can strategic confidence in such an unpredictable world be built.
Lords of Huh?
Review of Walter Kiechel III’s The Lords of Strategy: The Secret Intellectual History of the Corporate World (Harvard Business Press).
To every thing there is a season, and to this season Patrick Marren has written this thing.
“Hitting the bullseye” with a seemingly prescient prediction is kind of neat, we would all agree. But when the stakes are high, depending upon hitting the bullseye can be fatal.
Jeeves and the Dow Jones
With apologies to P.G. Wodehouse, it is time to re-examine a topic I first took up several years ago: which way will the stock market go next?
“Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.” Variously attributed to Niels Bohr, Mark Twain, Robert Storm Peterson, Yogi Berra, Casey Stengel, Samuel Goldwyn, and others, this quote holds more truth now than ever.
Enterprise Risk Management: Effective ERM Practices
The Enterprise Risk Management discipline is still new, and few companies have done it all and done it right.
Next time you are sitting in a corporate strategy meeting, try to imagine the people in charge on stage, thrown into improvisation – how well would they do? How well would you do?
The Great Game of Gotcha
Why experts are still forced to give pinpoint forecasts of the future, even though everyone involved should know that such point forecasts are dangerous nonsense.
The question “Are we in a recession?” is unanswerable until far too late – and almost always of no real use in decisionmaking in the real world.
Living in the Present
An article “from the future” illustrating the trend away from serious strategy and planning in American companies.
The integrity and identity of any business is to some degree dependent on the external pressures exerted upon it by the competitive environment. Strategic success in eliminating that pressure may ironically be the greatest threat to continued success.
Invasion of the Kravarites
Many are the businesses have been trapped by systems of jargon into thinking that summer is going to go on forever.
High-functioning Business Strategy
A rigorous step-by-step “left-brain” process is the best way to harness the talents of intensely competent “left-brain,” “autistic” managers to imagine entirely novel situations, challenges, opportunities – and strategies.
We've Got to Stop Meeting Like This
Many executives will use the same group of people to tackle all types of problems. But different problems will require different-sized groups, with different types of people.
Losing the Bubble
Shininess vs Usefulness
Fish or Starve
Review of Jared Diamond's book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Succeed or Fail, which has some interesting parallels to the world of business strategy.
Stick This in Your Stovepipe
When a business organization is in a state of imminent collapse, its vertical structures – its “stovepipes” – often remain in place, long after their usefulness has dissipated.
The Little Prince Approach to the Future
Far from the Blinking Crowd
Review of several recent books relevant to strategy issues, including Blink by Malcolm Gladwell and The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki.
Parables of Consulting
Purely humorous tales of Satan, the First Consultant.
Right and Left Brain Strategies
Are Left Brain Strategies Superior?
One of the most intractable problems in business strategy is the fact that here are two basic types of people: left-brain people who are logical, mathematical, and precise, and right-brain people who are creative, expressive, and generalist.
The Forgivable Sin
Patrick Marren discusses a form of systemic strategic blindness that cannot be explained away with a hopeful hypothesis –“the Cassandra Paradox.”
A Few Heads-Ups
Predicting exactly what WILL happen may be impossible. But anticipating a wide range of plausible eventualities, some of which will come to pass, is quite possible.
The Migrating Locus of Strategy
Are companies obeying some higher law that pushes them toward lemming-like self destruction for the greater good of the economy?
Who Is the Client?
Scenario planning clients are a unique breed, as they tend to be committed as much to the long-term success of an organization as they are to short-term results. But the dilemma never seems to go away: Should planners maximize the prospects of the current organization and its management, or plan for long-term organizational success?
Strategic Planning After 9/11: Planning for Disruptive Events
Much has been written about 9/11 strategic planning. The authors discuss the use of scenario planning in light of disruptive events.
Futurists’ Fallacies: Common Errors in Long-Range Planning
Fundamental long range planning errors are neither rare nor unavoidable. But why do respected planners so often fail to anticipate seismic events? Here we explore solutions to the challenge of future uncertainty and the value of scenario planning.
Where Did All the Knowledge Go?
A discussion of the rise and [relative] fall of the knowledge management movement in business.
Patrick Marren speculates about the US economy and whether it will recover, following the uncertainty due to terrorism in the West, occurring after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks of 11 September.
The Elephant Walk
Patrick Marren analyzes Louis Gerstner’s account of his revival of IBM in the mid-1990s, as well as what the phrase “business strategy” actually does and does not mean.
Business in the Age of Terrorism
Patrick Marren discusses how September 11 changed the way strategic planners must look at their companies' futures.
Proteus: Insights from 2020, by Charles Thomas, with M. Loescher and C. Schroeder (Copernicus Institute, 2000).
“Why Peter Drucker Is Wrong About the Future,” by Patrick Marren. Handbook of Business Strategy, 1998.
“Don’t Hide from Risk – Manage It,” by Charles Perrottet. Journal of Business Strategy, September/October 1998.
“Technology, Is It the Rue of Agents?” by Charles Perrottet. LIMRA’s MarketFacts, July/August 1998.
“”The Death of the Hierarchical Organization,” by Patrick Marren. Handbook of Business Strategy, 1997.
“Competitive Foresight Scenarios,” by Charles Perrottet, in Liam Fahey and Robert Randall, Learning from the Future (John Wiley & Sons, 1997).
“Scenario-based Planning for Technology Investments,” by Charles Thomas, in Liam Fahey and Robert Randall, Learning from the Future (John Wiley & Sons, 1997).
“The Best of All Worlds,” by Charles Perrottet and James W. Foster. Airline Business, December 1996.
“The Value of Strategic Scenarios in Planning,” by Ward Bower and Charles Perrottet. New York Law Journal. October 29, 1996.
“What’s Driving the Global Strategies of U.S. Companies?” by Peter Kennedy. Strategy & Leadership, 1996.
“Strategic Technology Assessment, Future Products, and Competitive Advantage,” by Charles Thomas. International Journal of the Management of Technology, 1996.
“Latin America: Alternative Futures,” by Peter Kennedy. Business Latin America, May 20, 1996.
“Scenarios for the Future,” by Charles Perrottet. Management Review, January 1996.
“Will Insurance Be Here In 30 More Years?” by Charles Perrottet. Best’s Review, March 1995.
“On the Trail of Tomorrow’s Markets,” by Peter Kennedy. The Corporate Board, July/August 1994.
“Learning from Imagining the Years Ahead,” by Charles Thomas. Planning Review, May/June 1994.
“Foresight in Strategic Technology Competition,” by Charles Thomas. Competitive Intelligence Review, March 1994.
“Identifying Tomorrow’s Great Markets Today,” by Peter Kennedy. Directors & Boards, 1993.
“Alternative Scenarios for the Defense Industries after 1995,” by Charles Thomas. Planning Review, May/June 1992.
Nailing Strategic Jello to the Wall
This article examines first principles of “business strategy” in a way that most of us are unconscious of normally.
Profitably Shared Delusions
A review of the importance of mass shared beliefs in shaping economies, markets, nations, and business strategies.
A demonstration of the perils of prediction in a unique way.
Patrick Marren discusses systems of categorization – what do you do when something doesn't quite fit?