FSG believes there’s only one way to properly learn how to do scenario planning, and that is to actually do it, in a real strategic context, and not as a generic business case from outside the organization.
A US federal laboratory approached FSG for advice in learning how to do scenario planning (also known as alternative futures planning) in order to build internal capabilities to support laboratory planning and decision processes. FSG customized a training program for the lab’s team that was charged with developing a scenario planning capability. The program consisted of a week-long hands-on training exercise, which included a simulated scenario-planning workshop, followed by an actual scenario-planning pilot for an internal business unit focused on machine learning.
The week-long training exercise consisted of:
- A focused introduction to scenario theory, applications and processes
- Exploring different types of scenario planning
- Mini-workshop, using off-the-shelf, non-proprietary scenario cases, to demonstrate essential workshop dynamics
- Scenario driver and issue identification, with Accelerator-Derailer sensitivity analysis
- Actual scenario customization (using non-proprietary scenario foundations) for general lab applications
- In-depth FSG coaching on scenario planning best practices: program design, core team selection, workshops, executive buy-in and involvement, implementation essentials, change leadership and risk management
The training week was followed a few months later by a pilot project in which the lab core project team partnered with FSG in facilitating a two-day workshop. The tasks involved:
- Identifying an appropriate focus area for the scenario workshop pilot – the one chosen was machine learning for energy systems
- Finalizing scenario documents
- Designing a workbook to guide discussions
- Recruiting workshop participants and organizing scenario-specific teams
- Prepping lab facilitators in essential workshop dynamics and best practices
- Conducting the workshop and an immediate post-workshop de-brief
- Organizing a preliminary synthesis of workshop results
This pilot workshop was considered a major success. The lab core team participants were well-prepared (for what is a non-traditional kind of workshop facilitation). The customized scenarios worked well, especially given the fact that the scenarios were not originally designed for the rather specific, technical subject of machine learning for energy systems.
Reassuring for FSG, the client derived valuable strategic insights from this initial pilot. Future applications of the scenario planning methodology are planned, with the benefit of an experienced core team that has been through the alternative futures experience – as active leaders and participants, not as passive classroom learners.