When I first began reading about scenario thinking I was equal parts intrigued and skeptical. If resources are already stretched and people are already too busy, how does an organization allow itself the time and space to ensure the initiative has a chance at success?
For successful scenario thinking, the authors of What if? The Art of Scenario Thinking for NonProfits recommend the organization be:
- oriented towards learning by engaging in authentic conversations about its warts and wonders.
- comfortable with not being comfortable by intentionally and constantly acquainting itself with change
- open to hearing divergent perspectives to unlock the otherwise unrealized opportunities or mitigate previously unnoticed threats.
- comfortable with implementing change where and when needed.
- lead by someone who understands and champions the scenario thinking process including the implementation of its discoveries.
- willing to commit the resources needed to do the work.
The authors also supplied an excellent initial litmus test you can use to determine organizational readiness for scenario thinking (What if? The Art of Scenario Thinking for NonProfits, p.21)
Do not use scenario thinking when…
- the problem you are dealing with is not central to your organizational strategy and/or your problem and solution are clear.
- the outcome is largely predetermined due to internal or external factors.
- the leadership want to maintain the status quo.
- there is too much urgency to step back for a reflective and creative conversation.
- your desired outcomes are poorly aligned with your dedicated resources.
Your situation is ideal for scenario thinking if….
- you are dealing with a strategic issue and the solution is unclear.
- you are working in a highly uncertain environment.
- there is leadership support for the scenario thinking process.
- your organization is open to change and dialogue.
- you can attract the resources necessary for a successful initiative.