This paper aims to identify four areas in need of future research to enhance the theoretical understanding of scenario planning (SP), and sets the basis for future empirical examination of its effects on individual and organizational level outcomes.
This paper organizes existing contributions on SP within a new consolidating framework that includes antecedents, processes and outcomes. The proposed framework allows for integration of the extant literature on SP from a wide variety of fields, including strategic management, finance, human resource management, operations management and psychology.
This study contributes to research by offering a coherent and consistent framework for understanding SP as a dynamic process. As such, it offers future researchers with a systematic way to ascertain where a particular study may be located in the SP process and, importantly, how it may influence – or be influenced by – various factors in the process.
This study offers specific research questions and precise guidelines to future scholars pursuing research on SP.
Balarezo, J. and Nielsen, B.B. (2017), "Scenario planning as organizational intervention: An integrative framework and future research directions", Review of International Business and Strategy, Vol. 27 No. 1, pp. 2-52. https://doi.org/10.1108/RIBS-09-2016-0049Download as .RIS
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Strategic renewal is considered necessary for the long-term survival and success in organizations (Agarwal and Helfat, 2009); yet such strategic renewal is very difficult to achieve (Bettis and Prahalad, 1995; Corner et al., 1994; Huff et al., 1992; Tripsas and Gavetti, 2000). Scenario planning is thought to bring strategies more in tune with changing business environments due to its ability to improve learning (van der Heijden, 2004; Schoemaker, 1995), enhance sense making, remedy cognitive biases and challenge prevailing mindsets (van der Heijden, 2005; Schoemaker, 1993, 1995; Wack, 1985a, 1985b) or devise better strategic options and thus aid decision-making (Chermack, 2004a; van der Heijden, 2005; Wack, 1985a, 1985b). Accordingly, the use of scenario planning makes organizations better prepared for coping with the uncertainty inherent in the business environment (Wack, 1985a), the very essence of strategy. Scenario planning works under the basic assumption that the future will not be constant or similar to the current business environment by questioning the deepest assumption about an organization’s strategy – thus promoting strategic renewal. This is particularly important in international business, where the business environment is constantly changing and fraud with high levels of uncertainty and risk due to differences in economic, political, social, cultural and geographic conditions (Cuervo-Cazurra et al., 2016; Andersson et al., 2014).
The normative aspects in this literature are appealing, and its potential benefits have been fleetingly recognized by the strategic management literature. For instance, research on dynamic capabilities (Teece, 2007) as well as organizational identity and learning (Brown and Starkey, 2000) have briefly touched upon the potential benefits of scenario planning. Yet, empirical evidence supporting its individual and organizational outcomes is insufficient (Chermack and Nimon, 2008; Glick et al., 2012; Harries, 2003; O’Keefe and Wright, 2010) and potentially unreliable because of the anecdotal and subjective-based nature of self-reported practitioners’ often-biased-accounts of their interventions (Hodgkinson and Healey, 2008). Moreover, the literature is dominated by a relatively large number of publications focusing on “techniques” or “methodological approaches” for building scenarios, many of which are at odds with each other leading to methodological confusion (Varum and Melo, 2010). Consequently, scenario planning research can be described as “Populist Science” where practical relevance is high but theoretical and methodological rigor is low.
This study systematically reviews, integrates and links the scenario planning literature to other relevant streams with focus on theoretical, methodological and empirical development. The review provides pertinent information of the processes and causal mechanisms underlying scenario planning, thus facilitating scientific verification of its merits (Chermack, 2005; Harries, 2003; Hodgkinson and Healey, 2008). Specifically, this study aims to synthetize and integrate the scenario planning literature into a coherent theoretical framework, offer a system’s view of scenario planning as a process and identify areas of debate and highlight priorities for future research. The proposed theoretical framework includes antecedents, processes, outcomes and moderating/mediating variables and solidifies the theoretical foundations of the scenario planning literature to aid future empirical testing. This is in stark contrast to previous literature reviews that have organized the scenario planning literature mainly by clustering the various techniques for developing scenarios in different ways (Bishop et al., 2007; Börjeson et al., 2006; Bradfield et al., 2005). Consequently, the ensuing state-of-the-art review arranges the scenario planning studies according to processes, theoretical roots and empirical evidence to move the literature toward a “Pragmatic Science”, where both relevance and methodological rigor are high (Anderson et al., 2001).
The paper is organized as follows. A methodological section follows this introduction. The next section presents a conceptual theoretical framework for scenario planning and discusses its components. Discussion of the main debate areas in need of future research follows and implications for theory and practice closes the study.
An analytical review scheme is necessary for a systematical evaluation of the literature in a research field and especially suited for evaluating contributions and discerning patterns from a widely different set of studies or domains (Ferreira et al., 2016; Ginsberg and Venkatraman, 1985). Given the lack of a common conceptual framework in the scenario planning literature and the virtual lack of large N empirical work, meta-analysis cannot be used for this research. Instead, a qualitative review is conducted.
We started with an electronic search drawing from the Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-expanded) and the Social Science Citation Index (SSCI) databases. These two databases are widely used in social sciences and humanities due to their cross-disciplinary coverage and archival depth. The databases were accessed through the Web of Knowledge platform in January 2016. Dates were not constrained; hence, the search included the widest possible range – from 1900 to December 2015 for the SCI-Expanded, and from 1956 to December 2015 for the SSCI. The search did not yield any record older than 1977. The search was restricted to articles in peer-reviewed journals to ensure validity (Podsakoff et al., 2005).
The key words used were “scenario planning”, “scenario thinking” and “scenario building”, which are commonly used in this literature (Varum and Melo, 2010). The following 12 categories were selected: “management”, “economics”, “business”, “business finance”, “operations research management science”, “planning development”, “computer science interdisciplinary applications”, “sociology”, “psychology”, “applied psychology”, “psychology multidisciplinary” and “multidisciplinary sciences”. This search yielded 233 records. The increased availability of databases has raised questions related to the accuracy of research based only on one database due to the differences in journal coverage (Basu, 2010). For example, research comparing the Scopus and Web of Knowledge databases has shown that using only one of these databases risks missing relevant research (Vieira and Gomes, 2009), especially when the search is limited to smaller citing entities – i.e. journals, conference proceedings or institutions (Meho and Sugimoto, 2009). Hence, to strengthen the validity, a secondary search was performed using the Scopus database. The parameters selected followed as closely as possible the search in the Web of Knowledge. This search yielded 332 articles. After a manual review and de-selection of duplicated results, the final raw number of articles used in this research was 409.
The 409 articles were subjected to a manual selection process to assess their contributions and were selected for final inclusion based on presence of: theory (such as frameworks, mechanisms, antecedents, moderators, variables or boundary conditions), empirical nature (quantitative or qualitative) and detailed case studies of scenario planning or scenario intervention which could potentially increase our understanding of the variables and mechanisms at play. After review, 137 articles were included in this review (Appendix). Two independent researcher’s reviewed all articles and agreed upon their inclusion; any remaining discrepancies were resolved via discussion until we reached a consensus.
Conceptual framework for understanding scenario planning
Building on the articles reviewed (Appendix), we constructed a conceptual framework which integrates past and current research and represents a stylized understanding of the different constructs and mechanisms underpinning scenario planning. Figure 1 illustrates this framework.
The framework advances previous theoretical attempts to synthesize the literature (Chermack, 2004b, 2005; Chermack and Lynham, 2002; Keough and Shanahan, 2008) by identifying scenario planning as a process. It emphasizes two antecedents, five processes, three main outcome categories, five main moderators and a mediator. This processual analysis (Pettigrew, 1997) contributes to the scenario planning literature by integrating relationships between antecedents, processes and outcomes which have previously been studied in isolation. The analysis also provides much needed theoretical foundations for scenario planning to guide future empirical research (Burt and Chermack, 2008; Walton, 2008).
Two antecedents (Box 1) influence the process and outcomes. Environmental uncertainty is an antecedent under the assumption that the future will not be constant or similar to the current business environment, thus supporting the need for scenario planning. Conceptualizing scenario planning as a recurrent process provides better understanding of prior strategy in addition of individual and organizational frames as the context for the following iteration. There are five processes (Boxes 2 and 5), starting with environmental scanning and culminating in active monitoring which influence, over time, individual and organizational level responses. Three main outcome categories are identified: cognitive and learning outcomes (Box 3), decision-making outcomes (Box 4) and performance outcomes (Box 6). These outcomes are sequential, meaning that cognitive and learning outcomes are necessary for better decision-making and later organizational performance. In reaching these outcomes, scenario planning moves progressively from the individual or group level (i.e. cognition) to the organizational level (e.g. strategic renewal). These processes and outcomes are moderated (Box 7) or mediated (Box 8) by several variables, as explained in detail below.
Increased environmental uncertainty and engrained individual or organizational mental models puts organizations at a disadvantaged position toward long-term strategic adaptation and survival. This combination creates the domain where scenario planning operates in its quest for enhancing individual and organizational outcomes.
The importance of an organization’s ability to match strategies to external changes has long been discussed in the strategic management literature (Daft et al. 1988; Eisenhardt and Martin, 2000; Miller, 1994). In a similar vein, the scenario planning literature also acknowledges the importance for organizations to be in tune with their external environment; in fact, much of the adoption of the method is attributed to heightened external uncertainty. For instance, Linneman and Klein (1983) studied the use of scenarios in US firms and found that its adoption increased substantially after a number of external shocks. Similarly, Malaska et al. (1984) surveyed 166 firms and found evidence that scenario analysis was associated with increased unpredictability of corporate environments. Kennedy and Avila (2013) reported on the highly volatile Brazil motor vehicle market and provided evidence of the value of scenario planning under economic, political and market uncertainty. More recently, studies correlate adoption of scenario planning with higher external uncertainty faced by decision makers (Ramirez et al., 2010; Sharma and Yang, 2015; Varum and Melo, 2010). Hence, the literature establishes a positive relationship between increased environmental uncertainty and adoption of scenario planning in search for strategic adaptation.
Individual and organizational mental models.
The cognitive perspective of strategy making acknowledges the bounded rationality of individuals (Simon, 1979) and the important role that cognition plays in strategic contexts (Hodgkinson and Maule, 2002). Individuals have limited information-processing capabilities which make them prone to creating economic tendencies – e.g. heuristics – and to process information under the filters created by core beliefs, cognitive categorizations and mental frames (Duhaime and Schwenk, 1985; Hodgkinson, 2003; Hogarth, 1987; Reger and Palmer, 1996; Walsh, 1995). Therefore, the way individuals act is explained by past experiences and economizing on information-processing. These cognitive limitations might blind managers to important environmental changes and lead them to inaccurate interpretations and wrong decisions.
Scenario planning is believed to be an efficient organizational intervention in reducing these cognitive limitations. Good scenarios can challenge preconceptions through a deeper appreciation of the factors that could shape the future (Schoemaker, 1995). Further, scenarios aim at enhancing sense-making capabilities (Wright, 2005) and reduce individual-bounded rationality by presenting vast amounts of relevant information easily accessible by memory, thus affecting individual mental frames (Chermack, 2004a). According to van der Heijden (2005), scenarios develop the ability in managers to interpret information from the environment differently and force them to “think the unthinkable”. Therefore, cognitive benefits are prescribed by this literature under the assumption that individuals and organizations are unlikely to timely update their mental models in face of dynamic environments. Hence, mental models in individuals and organizations are antecedent to the process of scenario planning.
Five main processes in scenario planning are identified. The first is environmental scanning which provides input for scenario building. The output of scenario building is the scenarios themselves which then are disseminated throughout the organization. Active monitoring links current scenario planning processes to future processes. Research on processes has mainly focused on two areas, scenario building techniques and the scenarios themselves, leaving many important features of scenario planning, such as movements across and within levels and the effects of the process over time, unexplored.
Environmental scanning is an important input for scenario building, for example in the identification of key factors and driving forces in the company’s external environment (van der Heijden, 2005; Schoemaker, 1993; Schwartz, 1991; Wack, 1985a). Therefore, the quality of information gathered from the scanning process will have a great influence on the ensuing scenarios built. However, the literature has paid little attention to the different biases that scanning is potentially vulnerable to. For instance, scanning can be detrimental for changing perceptions due to biases such as hindsight (Barnes, 1984; Kuvaas, 2002) or confirmation (Darley and Gross, 1983), which predisposes individuals to look for information that confirms their initial beliefs rather than finding contradictory evidence. As noted by Dorner and Schaub (1994), most information-collection mistakes are due to preformed images of reality as people fail to look at the whole range of information. Instead, people focus on what is considered important from the viewpoint of their preconceived image of reality. Therefore, standard ways of scanning are likely to be oriented toward known events (Beck and Plowman, 2009). Hence, although the scenario planning literature acknowledges the importance of environmental scanning – and the effects of engrained mental models as antecedent – it does not recognize the potential biases that scanning brings into the process.
This is the area within planning that has drawn most scholarly attention. The number of methodologies proposed for creating scenarios is large. Good overviews and classifications of different methodologies for scenario building are provided by several scholars (Bishop et al., 2007; Börjeson et al., 2006; Bradfield et al., 2005; Huss and Honton, 1987; Schnaars, 1987; Varum and Melo, 2010). However, despite the noble attempts at synthesizing the literature, many methodologies are at odds with each other. Moreover, the literature offers no theoretical reasons or empirical evidence to explain why a particular methodology should be preferred over another.
Yet, the confusion is not only associated with the methodologies for creating scenarios but also with the construct definition. Scenarios, scenario building, scenario thinking and scenario planning (SP) are often confused or used interchangeably. For instance, Miller and Waller (2003, p. 95) defined SP as a “process for structured thinking in which stories are created that bring together factual data and human insight to create scenario plots exploring possible futures”. By the same token, Alonso and Austin (2016) showed how forward thinking may influence innovative practices. However, according to van der Heijden (2005), SP should have an integrating focus where decisions and actions to implement strategies are part of the process. There is a clear difference in these two definitions; the first one is centered on creating scenarios, thus missing integration into strategy development or implementation as proposed by the second definition. As pointed out by Chermack and Lynham (2002), SP definitions are unclear about what the primary intentions of the process are. This not only confuses readers but also potentially misdirects researchers and practitioners in this field, as it is often unclear whether a particular study is about scenario building, SP or something else. The lack of precision on the construct definition is indeed a critical issue in this literature. Without clear construct definition, efforts to strengthen the theoretical foundations of SP and unearth its mechanisms are seriously undermined. Bishop et al. (2007) briefly addressed the misuse of the word “scenarios”, as it is often used indiscriminately to refer to scenario development and SP. The authors suggested using the word SP only when referring to a “complete foresight study” which generally should include six steps (framing, scanning, forecasting, visioning, planning and acting). Scenario development should be used only in the context of creating or building the “stories about the future” (Bishop et al., 2007).
These limitations notwithstanding, this review defines SP as an organizational intervention with the potential for improving strategic adaptation and renewal and identifies four building blocks frequently associated with building scenarios: predetermined elements, or driving forces pushing for inevitable outcomes, although the timing and impact of these outcomes are not yet known (Wack, 1985a, 1985b). The identification of these predetermined elements is central to SP projects (Burt, 2006); the strategic conversation, or “carefully thought out but loosely facilitated series of in-depth conversations for key decision makers throughout the organization” (Schwartz, 1991, p. 221). The strategic conversation incorporates a wide range of unstructured thoughts and views used to create a common interpretation (van der Heijden, 2005); consensus, as scenario building is a legitimation device around key strategic issues challenging the organization (Schoemaker, 1993) and thinking the unthinkable which attempts to entice out-of-the-box thinking, often by the inclusion of “remarkable people” to better challenge institutionalized thinking and broaden views (van der Heijden, 1997). The four constructs appear to combine quantitative and qualitative dimensions in developing the scenarios.
Interestingly, the literature generally has not reflected on further biases introduced during scenario building. For instance, research points to potential problems in large group settings (used in scenario building workshops) such as stereotyping, decreased ownership of ideas or unwillingness to express novel thoughts (Weick and Quinn, 1999). This constitutes an important area for future research in the pursuit of a better understanding of the SP process.
Scenarios are a central element of SP. However, their ability to effectively stretch people’s thinking or challenge firm’s strategic decisions is increasingly being challenged. For instance, scenarios tend to be unimaginative, constrained to a standard range of possibilities, focused on current issues, predictable on their factors and theme selection and prone to leaving uncertainties out of the analysis (Bacon, 2012; van Notten et al., 2005; O’Brien, 2004). Moreover, scenarios seem often to be misleading and ill-prepared to entice novel thinking or anticipate rare events (Goodwin and Wright, 2010; Postma and Liebl, 2005). For instance, Bacon (2012) analyzed 13 different scenario-based studies regarding the “future of Russia” and found that in all cases, the scenarios constructed were too close to each other and reduced to a standard set of futures, usually within the lines of best case, worst case, continuity and regional variation. Similarly, van Notten et al. (2005) reviewed 22 scenario studies and found only half of them included discontinuities. Methodological choice, tendency to consider only attractive futures and avoid threatening ones, organizational resistance toward uncertainty or assumptions that the future will not be meaningfully different from the present are some of the reasons for this trend (van Notten et al., 2005).
The evidence points to a problematic area of the SP: the scenarios themselves. Despite the large number of proposed methodologies, scenarios remain unimaginative, similar to each other or gravitating toward current, known trends. As such, scenarios are ineffective to accomplish their prime objective – challenging mental frames. Instead, the restrictive array of scenarios might reinforce current views and status quo (Wright and Goodwin, 2009). Indeed, many companies in their approach to scenarios are simply quantifying the obvious (Wack, 1985a). The response has been more methodologies for reducing these weaknesses. For instance, the combination of quantitative and qualitative dimensions (von der Gracht and Darkow, 2010; Söderholm et al., 2011), use of fuzzy cognitive mapping (Amer et al., 2011; Jetter and Schweinfort, 2011), combination of different methodologies (Dammers, 2010) or inclusion of different types of scenarios such as inconsistent, context, recombinant or scenarios that highlight key vulnerabilities (Bryant and Lempert, 2010; Muskat et al., 2013; Postma and Liebl, 2005).
Rather than proposing further methodologies, a more fruitful line of research is to deepen our understanding of the mechanisms that drive the SP process toward its intended outcomes. Scenarios, and SP in general, are social processes involving individuals embedded in the organizational context. As such, it is surprising that the literature has not sufficiently leveraged insight from psychology and social cognition on how to improve the effectiveness of scenarios.
Contextual sharing and disseminating.
There is a lack of clarity on how the SP process transcends into the organizational level (Burt and Chermack, 2008). The organizational learning literature provides insights on how information residing at individual (or team) level can reach organizational levels; for instance, through dissemination (Flores et al., 2012) or embedding (institutionalizing) learning into organizational routines (or memory) reflected in strategy, structure, procedures and systems (Crossan et al., 1999). Within the SP literature, the case study at Shell provides good evidence of how knowledge from scenarios moved from individuals into the organization at large, reflected in changes in strategy. The company engineered this dissemination process by asking their line managers how they would react to the different scenarios created (De Geus, 1997; Wack, 1985a).
However, transferring knowledge is not a simple task and requires cooperation and determination from both transmitter and receiver. For instance, research on information transfer among teams found that teams must make the necessary effort to translate the knowledge into meaningful realities and contexts for the recipient side (Bresman, 2012). By the same token, organizational learning theory points to the critical role of language and motivation for effective learning to take place (Crossan et al., 1999). Though limited, a few examples exist within the SP literature in which the efforts to disseminate scenarios and make it context specific are clear (Cornelius et al., 2005; Moyer, 1996; Wack, 1985a). For instance, Wack, (1985a, p. 88) reported how after a series of failed attempts for SP to reach organizational level responses, scenarios presented to line managers evolved into “a tailor-made fit between the scenarios and their [line manager’s] deepest concerns”. Thus, scenarios were tailored to the specific part of the organization they were meant to reach and organizationally embedded to facilitate organizational level learning. However, the few case studies that do focus on contextual sharing and dissemination remain largely silent on the barriers and enablers that might restrict or allow learning from SP to move from the group level (e.g. scenario building workshops) into the organization at large. Consequently, further research looking into the transferring mechanisms and potential blockers of this transfer is needed.
Active monitoring and scenario planning as continuous process.
Some researchers understand SP as a continuous organizational process. For instance, SP needs to continuously bridge the organization with its external environments by fine-tuning strategies and their implementation. Hence, SP is a continuous learning process that enhances organizational responsiveness by actively monitoring the key uncertainties identified during the scenario process, tracking environmental changes and having frequent exposure updates (Miller and Waller, 2003). Yet, many SP projects fail because there is no link between the scenarios and strategies, a lack of implementation which can only be remedied with time and practice (Wilson, 2000). Consequently, SP acts as a trend following an alert mechanism where signposts are used as early warning indicators for flagging which scenario might be developing (Ramirez et al., 2013)
Furthermore, as input for scenario building, the quality of information gathered from active monitoring will greatly influence subsequent iterations. Due to the high uncertainty inherent in long-term scenarios, these should be refined and adjusted regularly as a way to assist decision-making. In other words, SP as a decision support mechanism must be a continuous, iterative process, and not a one-time, episodic exercise (Burt and van der Heijden, 2003; Heinonen and Lauttamäki, 2012; Mahmoud et al., 2009; Sarpong, 2011).
However, despite the very good reasons for understanding SP as a dynamic and continuous process, most of the literature implicitly characterizes SP as a demanding, one-time exercise frequently led or facilitated by external advisers. There is scant evidence of the long-term effects or evolution of the process over time; inter-temporal or dynamic dimensions are mostly ignored. This omission prevents a better understanding of how exactly SP reaches organizational level outcomes.
Improved cognition, learning, strategic decision-making and organizational performance are some of the intended outcomes of SP. However, empirical evidence linking SP to such benefits is rare. This section reviews the proposed individual and organizational outcomes against the findings in the literature.
Change in individual cognition is a primary intended outcome of SP (Chermack, 2004b; van der Heijden, 2005; Schoemaker, 1995; Wright, 2005). SP fosters a constant level of attention with its continuous demand for awareness to the internal and external environment. This, in turn, facilitates better sensing and forces decision makers to contemplate different perspectives. However, little empirical evidence exists to support these claims. The best evidence for the effect of scenarios on individual mental models is provided by Schoemaker (1993) who conducted experiments on MBA students. The results showed how the use of scenarios expanded their thinking as confidence ranges were widened. Schoemaker (1993) argued that scenarios use exploitation of biases in human cognition as mechanisms to achieve their goals. More precisely, scenarios achieve mental changes by reducing biases such as overconfidence, anchoring or availability through exploiting the conjunction fallacy bias – the inclination to believe that a combination of events is more likely than a single one.
In addition to Schoemaker’s experiment, only a few other studies were found to empirically test the effects of SP on individual cognition, although the findings are generally inconclusive. Glick et al. (2012) used a sample of 129 individuals involved in SP interventions in ten different firms. Comparison of pre- and post-intervention revealed mild support for the process’ ability to change some individual mental models; however, the results were inconclusive due to lack of control groups and short time span between the surveys. Zegras and Rayle (2012) used surveys pre- and post-SP intervention and did not find evidence for SP’s ability to change participants’ perception or views. Sedor (2002) built on contributions from psychology, specifically from Koehler’s (1991) argument that tasks requiring a hypothesis to be treated as true is “sufficient to increase confidence in the truth of that hypothesis”. Accordingly, by being presented with a scenario, individuals momentarily assume it as true, incorrectly assigning a higher likelihood of such scenario becoming true in detriment to alternative ones. Sedor (2002) investigated the biasing effect of scenario-like presentations by management following disappointing financial results and found that scenario-like presentations create more optimistic forecasts in analyst’s recommendations. This indicates that instead of correcting them, scenarios may potentially introduce further cognitive biases. Phadnis et al. (2015) conducted three field studies of the impact of scenarios on confidence in judgments on long-range investment decisions among field experts. Their results suggest that the use of multiple scenarios have no impact on field experts’ confidence in their judgments; rather, any change in judgment confidence was attributed to how well (or poorly) a particular investment fared in a given scenario. In summary, despite the wide advocacy of SP prowess on challenging and changing mental frames, the empirical evidence does not support this. Further research is needed to better understand the actual effects of scenarios on individual cognition.
Individual and organizational learning.
The literature generally prescribes SP as an intervention that improves individual and organizational learning (Schoemaker, 1995; Schwartz, 1991; van der Heijden, 2004; van der Heijden et al., 2002). According to Aligica (2005), scenarios create knowledge from two perspectives: psychologically through its cognitive contributions meant to confront uncertainty, decompose complexity and de-bias human minds by reducing over-confidence; and from an epistemic point of view, where scenarios increase the stock of knowledge by putting pieces of information together where a new configuration that brings new knowledge about the actors and implications might emerge. Because scenarios come from a rational assessment, they create knowledge which is not factual or empirical, but conditional. Similarly, Kivijärvi et al. (2010) view scenarios as elements that enhance organizational knowledge by testing knowledge items against other items. According to Bodwell and Chermack (2010), SP can help to achieve organizational ambidexterity; the simultaneous pursuit of explorative and exploitative learning.
However, similar to individual cognition, empirical evidence for the relationship between SP and organizational learning is vague. Chermack et al. (2006) investigated empirically the link between SP and organizational level learning by analyzing the difference in individual responses pre- and post-SP interventions (three months span) in a large educational institution in the USA. The results appear to associate SP with increased perception of organizational learning; however, the sample set is composed of only nine respondents, thus diminishing the validity of the results. More recently, Chermack and Nimon (2013) studied 129 individuals in eight organizations and found SP activities to increase the perception of a learning organizational culture; however, to what extent individuals and/or organizations actually “learned” was not assessed. Given the purported positive relationship between SP and organizational learning and renewal, more research is needed to ascertain precisely how and when (under what conditions) such relationships may occur.
Selection of strategies more in line with the (emerging) environment should follow cognitive and learning outcomes. Although better appreciation of the business environment or identification of possible developing trends is important, decisions and actions need to be implemented (van der Heijden, 2004). However, the extant literature provides inadequate guidance or empirical evidence for how SP aids strategic selection or enables strategic change (Hodgkinson and Wright, 2002; Keough and Shanahan 2008).
The early SP literature proposed qualitative and quantitative approaches to strategy selection such as intuition, managerial knowledge, wind tunneling, qualitative correlations, option stock/holder matrix, SWOT methods, key-success-factor-matrix or TOWS matrix for debate stimulation (van der Heijden 2005; Schoemaker, 1995, 1997; Weihrich, 1993). However, such tools are typically too simplistic, inadequate and fraught with a multitude of problems to provide real value in decision-making (Goodwin and Wright, 2001). Such tools suffer from lack of realism, as they underestimate the complex decision-making process in face of many scenarios, different constraints, alternatives and objectives. Hence, SP is criticized for its underdeveloped strategic evaluations techniques which are unlikely to help in developing and implementing better strategic decisions (Eriksson and Weber, 2008; Goodwin and Wright, 2001; Lempert et al., 2006; Tapinos, 2012; Wright et al., 2009). Among the few studies to report changes in strategic decisions based on SP processes, Phadnis et al. (2015) concluded that field experts seems to prefer more flexible long-term investment options after using multiple scenarios.
Surprisingly, the relationship between SP and organizational performance has received relatively little attention (Chermack, 2004b; Hodgkinson and Wright, 2002; Keough and Shanahan 2008; Mietzner and Reger, 2005; Varum and Melo, 2010). Furthermore, increased performance is generally not mentioned as a necessary outcome for SP (Chermack and Lynham, 2002), despite the large amount of resources typically devoted to it (Millett, 2003; Mietzner and Reger, 2005). This review only identified two studies empirically investigating the relationship between SP and organizational performance. Phelps et al. (2001) studied two different industries in the UK and found only mild support for improved financial performance resulting from SP. However, the results are tenuous at best due to the combination of uncontrolled variables and a small sample. Moreover, worse performance was also reported on some non-financial parameters. Visser and Chermack (2009) interviewed top level managers from nine companies (small and large) in different industries and found some evidence that SP contributes to firm performance. However, in addition to the small sample, the interview data were subject to self-reported bias and notable differences between the SP processes of the interviewed companies prevent meaningful comparisons. Thus, the empirical evidence does not support a positive relationship between SP and firm performance. This is perhaps not surprising considering the lack of support for a positive relationship between SP and its other intended outcomes – cognition and learning.
All in all, the literature on SP provides lots of examples of intended performance outcomes but very little concrete empirical evidence of such effects. This is a critical issue, as the entire raison d’être for investing time and resources in SP processes is predicated on improved organizational performance. Future research must provide stronger evidence of individual and organizational level positive outcomes to validate the implementation of SP.
Moderators and mediator
Extant research has mostly focused on the process and content of SP rather than the pre-existing or boundary conditions necessary for its effectiveness (Wright et al., 2008). Theoretical or empirical studies pointing toward moderators or mediators in SP research are scarce. It seems to be an implicit assumption that SP can be used effectively in any context or firm without considerations of the internal capabilities or adequacy for the host institution. Building on evidence presented in single case studies, this review has identified several important variables with the potential to affect the relationship between SP and its outcomes. Although in many cases the authors did not explicitly discuss or label a variable as moderator or mediator, the context provided supports interpretations of the proposed variables as moderators or mediators.
Five moderators are identified:
organizational and industry characteristics;
anchoring and understanding;
power and politics;
the SP team; and
structured quantitative techniques.
In addition, emotional responses are discussed as potential mediator.
Organizational and industry characteristics as a moderator.
The large amount of resources needed to perform SP is a potential limitation, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises. Scenarios are expensive and difficult to create and the intense level of involvement makes SP an activity for only the most financially solid companies (van der Heijden, 2005; Wack, 1985a). Moreover, the method is time-consuming and highly demanding on personnel, further limiting the adoption of the method (Mietzner and Reger, 2005; Millett, 2003).
Interestingly, much of the broad adoption and popularity of SP hinges on the successful implementation at Shell and its ability to identify environmental shifts (Cornelius et al., 2005; Wack, 1985a, 1985b). However, a careful read of the implementation at Shell shows the large amounts of capital, human resources, data and analyses behind the process (Wack, 1985a). Further, it took years and many iterations for SP at Shell to have a positive organizational impact. Given the sheer size and idiosyncratic nature of Shell, this brings to question the generalizability of this case to other firms. If anything, this points to unique circumstances possibly constraining the process outside companies with these characteristics (i.e. large in size, financially strong, experienced in dealing with uncertainty and with an advanced analytics’ team). Similarly, strong institutional settings and organizational willingness to experiment, absorb and use the knowledge gathered in the process also may affect SP’s success (Volkery and Ribeiro, 2009). Unless the organization and its leaders are ready for such challenges, the process is likely to fail. As noted by Mintzberg (1994), successful SP interventions might be an exception rather than a rule.
Industry characteristics also have the potential to affect SP interventions (Keough and Shanahan, 2008). On their account of a failed intervention, Hodgkinson and Wright (2002) left open the possibility that their intervention might have been premature for an organization embedded in a slow moving industry characterized by incremental change and not used to questioning its core beliefs and processes. Moreover, Gordon (2011) argued that an organization’s level of influence over the potential uncertainties that could shape its environment servers to make the distinction between using visionary (normative) and adaptive scenarios. If the potential level of influence is considerable, the former type of scenarios is recommended. However, if there are many forces over which the organization has no real influence, adaptive scenarios should be used (Gordon, 2011). Because SP questions long held assumptions and accepts discontinuities, it might be more appropriate for companies embedded in highly dynamic environments whose management is used to discontinuities and revision of assumptions underpinning strategies.
The success of SP seems to be moderated by various internal and external factors such as resource availability (human and financial), time, institutional and industry characteristics, willingness to challenge strategies and ability to influence external uncertainties.
Anchoring and understanding as a moderator.
Anchoring SP at the highest ranks of the organization (e.g. the upper echelons) is important to achieve organizational buy-in. Consequently, the SP team, stakeholders and project sponsors should be anchored at the higher organizational ranks to facilitate SP (Goodwin and Wright, 2001; van der Heijden, 2005; Mobasheri et al., 1989; Schwartz, 1991).
An unclear understanding of the purposes of the scenario intervention is noted as one of the main culprits for unsuccessful SP interventions (Burt and van der Heijden, 2003, 2008). According to van der Heijden (2004), there are four reasons for using SP (sense making, anticipating future events, finding the optimal strategy and adaptive learning). The author observed most failures when firms tried to generate strategies out of stand-alone scenario interventions, which incidentally tend to produce unsurprising scenarios. Naturally, organizational outcomes are difficult to reach from a standalone intervention involving few actors. Thus, a clear understanding from the inception of the purpose along with buy-in and support from high levels in the organizations are regarded as important for the success of SP.
Power and politics as a moderator.
Broad participation and organizational representation, for instance during scenario building workshops, is recommended in the literature. However, inequalities within the participants in terms of hierarchy and political weight might influence the deliberations during scenario construction and marginalize some views (Hanssen et al., 2009). Thus, instead of prompting social and cognitive openness, SP might provoke cognitive closure if powerful individuals exert their influence. For instance, influence of powerful individuals potentially renders SP vulnerable to be used for setting personal or political agendas (Volkery and Ribeiro, 2009), to increase momentum of a topic (Eriksson and Weber, 2008) or to modify the results to make them politically more palatable (Heinonen and Lauttamäki 2012). Similarly, the project sponsor should be open and inclusive, instead of being embedded in close networks or biased in pursuing her/his own agendas (Cairns et al., 2006). Personal interests might be served by selecting or presenting scenarios one way or another (Selin, 2006). In this way, power and politics may present dilemmas, as actions and allocations of resources are excluded from the SP process. Hence, powerful individuals have the potential to exert negative influences on SP, a key issue rarely discussed in the SP literature.
Scenario planning team – composition and positioning as a moderator.
Keough and Shanahan (2008) identified the SP team composition as vital for the success of the process, while at the same time pointing to the lack of guidance in the literature as to how the team members are to be selected or trained. Notably, Hodgkinson and Healey (2008) investigated in depth the SP team’s composition and its role in stimulating cognitive outcomes. Leveraging from the field of social psychology and personality, a series of propositions regarding the composition and design of the SP team were articulated with focus on participant’s sufficient background knowledge and perspectives to maximize the likelihood of effective group information processing; ensuring adequate blend of personalities to entice cooperative teamwork and minimize conflicts, decision stress and future-focused anxiety; and avoiding political or logistical factors that might derail the optimal configuration of the teams.
The critical importance of the core SP team is in full display in the account presented at Shell (Wack, 1985a, 1985b). Despite many obstacles, the SP team at Shell persevered until successful organizational outcomes were reached. However, the success achieved by the Shell SP team should not be generalized to other contexts. This team was very skilled at their positions and trained in dealing with uncertainty. Moreover, as noted previously, the team was embedded in a financially strong and adept organization committed to change. Less experienced teams in different contexts might have reached a different outcome. More recently, Harris (2013) gave a brief account of some of the workings of the team involved in SP at the Western Electric Coordinating Council; however, no mentioning of the team composition or organizational positioning was given. Given the importance of the core SP team for developing, screening and presenting scenarios to top management, it is surprising how little academic attention its optimal composition or characteristics has drawn. This constitutes an area ripe for further studies.
Structured quantitative techniques as a moderator.
The review revealed a growing trend toward combining SP with more structured quantitative tools better prepared for assessing and selecting strategic options. The structured quantitative dimension is argued as necessary to overcome human limitations in dealing with complex systems such as focusing on few variables, neglecting time lags, being subject to biases and using heuristics, focusing on linear causality and overlooking feedback loops (Acar and Druckenmiller, 2006; Jetter and Schweinfort 2011). The aim of combining SP with quantitative techniques is to reduce the complexity of the decision-making. For instance, the use of decomposition – re-composition in decision analysis, where the re-composition phase follows a formalized set of axioms, reduces decision-making biases by managers when faced with such complexity (Goodwin and Wright, 2001; Kowalski et al. 2009). Specific techniques proposed in combination with SP include multi-criteria decision analysis (Goodwin and Wright, 2001; Stewart et al., 2013; Wright and Goodwin, 2009) and real options thinking (Alessandri et al., 2004; Driouchi et al. 2009; Miller and Waller, 2003).
In the absence of quantitative techniques, more adept at following formalized axioms for strategic selection, SP is ill prepared to select strategic options and is prone to introduce further biases due to the complexity of the decision process. Hence, the exploratory essence of the scenarios seems to be well supplemented by structured quantitative techniques, thus likely improving the overall strategic selection capabilities of SP.
Emotional responses as a mediator.
SP introduces more uncertainty in the decision-making process by avoiding prediction. Reaching a decision in face of different perspectives and dilemmas is likely to create anxiety for the decision makers. New information that conflicts with current assumptions forces individuals into unease, anxiety and active rejection of the new painful information (Hodgkinson and Healey 2011; Karlsson et al., 2009).
Within the SP literature, the role of emotions has been insufficiently addressed. Our review found only a few studies exploring the effects that emotions play in the process. MacKay and McKiernan (2010) identified four dysfunctional effects of scenarios: creativity layered on fantasy, heightened expectations and confusion, pride and passion and lack of relation to everyday work. The authors argued these dysfunctional effects might render the SP neutral, distant or irrelevant at best, and harmful at worst. Heightened expectations and confusion arise from the reevaluation of current reality due to new lenses that lead to stress and frustration. Pride is triggered among senior executives, as scenario building activities may challenge their strategy, validity, necessity or durability. Emotional responses are also present in the study presented by Hodgkinson and Wright (2002), where the SP process failed because it triggered defensive avoidance strategies by the participants as escape valve to cope with the high levels of decision stress. Similarly, O’Keefe and Wright (2010) described a scenario intervention that failed from the outset as the process raised doubts about already made decisions, potentially jeopardizing the work security of the individuals involved in these prior decisions, many of which were participants of the scenario building process. Thus, instead of openly discussing the firm’s strategic direction, emotional considerations prevailed. As noted by Wright et al. (2008), SP interventions are likely to challenge and question prevailing mindsets, thus bruising some egos in the process. On the other hand, a recent quantitative study by Chermack et al. (2015) found SP intervention to be positively associated with a creative organizational climate through feelings of freedom, trust, idea-time and play/humor, among other things. By the same token, Sankaran et al. (2014) showed the importance of emotions in driving SP and building. Passion, emotions and power were deemed particularly important in the process.
Hence, emotional responses are important in SP as mediator to cognitive outcomes and strategic responses. Scenarios might trigger emotional responses such as anxiety, insecurity, pride and passion thereby causing certain topics, trends or decisions to be marginalized. This likely hinders cognitive and learning outcomes and may delay or effectively evade strategic decisions. Similarly, scenarios might also trigger detachment from the process thus further diminishing its effects. In this way, emotions triggered during the SP process might negate any positive cognitive outcomes and instead reinforce dated views. On the other hand, SP interventions may also facilitate trust, openness and freedom to experiment, which may be lead to a more creative organizational climate. Future research must delve deeper into emotions as a mechanism through which SP interventions influence various individual and organizational outcomes.
Conclusion and suggestions for future research
This paper has examined the current state of the SP literature. Based on a comprehensive review, an integrative conceptual framework was created which embodies the different antecedent, process and outcome variables affecting SP. The review reveals four underdeveloped areas in particular need of further research.
Are scenarios effective cognitive devices or sources of biases?
An unclear yet vital issue is whether the scenarios, a central building block of SP, are at all effective in challenging views and enhancing individual and corporate perceptions. The empirical evidence seemingly does not support this argument. Rather, scenarios seem to be constraining mechanisms reinforcing potentially out-of-date views and introducing further biases. Scenarios are presenting similar, agreeable, consensual, preferred pictures of the future, with limited treatment of uncertainties or discontinuities (Bacon, 2012; van Notten et al., 2005; O’Brien, 2004). If companies in their approach to scenarios are quantifying the obvious (Wack, 1985a), then SP seems unlikely to open mental frames and challenge existing assumptions.
Furthermore, in the event that scenarios are well constructed, novel and interesting, it is not clear if they are adequate in reducing biases. The empirical evidence is mixed. Some evidence suggests scenarios achieve mental changes by reducing biases such as overconfidence, anchoring or availability (Schoemaker, 1993). However, there is also evidence that scenario-like presentations introduce the same biases – e.g. overconfidence or anchoring (Sedor, 2002). Further empirical research is needed to clarify this central issue.
The organizational context and influences on the scenario planning process
The review revealed a contradiction in the SP literature. On one hand, it correctly identifies the need for organizations to renew their mental models in face of uncertain and dynamic environments. From this perspective, the SP is prescribed as an intervention capable of updating mental models and correcting limitations in information processing. On the other hand, the literature ignores how difficult it is to change those same mental frames (Bettis and Prahalad, 1995; Corner et al., 1994; Hall, 1984).
Importantly, the extant literature has not yet reflected on the variety of biases and constraints affecting the process due to its organizational embeddedness. For instance, in addition to strategic mental frames, organizational identity and organizational routines are elements that form the structure of organizational strategic cognition (Narayanan et al., 2010). Organizational identity is the organizational member’s collective understanding of central and relatively permanent features of the organization (Albert and Whetten, 1985). Strong organizational identities might result in cognitive inertia (Hodgkinson 1997; Reger and Palmer, 1996).
Research has rarely touched upon the effects of identity or routines on the SP process. It is not clear how the SP process, embedded within the organization, breaks free from such influences affecting individual and organizational cognition. For example, the first building block for scenario construction, the identification of predetermined elements, will be heavily influenced by the biases introduced during the environmental scanning due to the biased nature of scanning (Beck and Plowman, 2009; Dorner and Schaub, 1994; Kuvaas, 2002). After some analysis, a “predetermined element” might be identified, but such an element is predetermined only to the extent that its relationships are internally consistent and fit current mental frames. As scenarios are built from identified non-paradoxical trends or simple dichotomies, they are unlikely to be useful for exploring situations beyond past known boundaries and contexts, or anticipate rare events (Goodwin and Wright, 2010; Postma and Liebl, 2005).
Only a handful of papers within the SP literature discusses these potential biases and their effects on SP. For instance, Roubelat (2006) argued organizational structures are rarely adequate to challenge old paradigms, much less to propose alternative ones. Consensus and self-censure will tend to eliminate views that do not fit the current paradigm, especially if members are selected to represent certain parts of the organization. Elkington and Trisoglio (1996) studied the effects of organizational identity at Shell and concluded the scenarios created by the company were affected by features associated with the identity of multinationals at the time – e.g. individualism, hierarchy and lack of egalitarian perspectives. This made Shell miss obvious trends in their environment – for instance, in relation to corporate social responsibility.
Similarly, the role of emotions as well as power and politics might affect SP. Certain topics, scenarios or decisions might be avoided due to the anxiety the process produces or because certain topics might not be in the interest of powerful individuals involved in SP. Power as a moderator in SP opens up an interesting debate: the tension between SP being anchored at the higher levels of the organization – which is widely recommended in the literature – and the potential negative influences these individuals might exert into the process due to their powerful positions. The main argument for anchoring the process high in the organization is the need to have SP buy-in at the higher ranks as organizational action is presumed to converge at the top management level (Bettis and Prahalad, 1995; Thomas et al., 1993). Although in line with the “upper echelon” view of the importance of top management teams (TMT) in organizations (Hambrick and Mason, 1984), this line of argument disregards the possible negative effects of such strong involvement. For example, executive managers tend to focus their attention on topics they deem most relevant while selectively ignoring other topics not thought important (Bogner and Barr, 2000; Daft and Weick, 1984). Furthermore, commitment to status quo is a significant top management orientation (Hambrick et al., 1993), which may limit interpretation adequacy and learning capabilities of organizations (Beck and Plowman, 2009), or prevent the opportunity to make sense of a situation by organizational groups outside top management (Maitlis and Sonenshein, 2010).
Within the SP literature, the negative effects of an uncooperative CEO on a SP intervention have been documented (Hodgkinson and Wright, 2002). Therefore, contrarily to the established view of senior executives’ role in anchoring SP, there is also evidence that such involvement may be detrimental. Presumably, a more cohesive TMT with longer tenure will have stronger mental frames and be more resistant to SP interventions, or exert negative influences on the process as compared to younger, more diverse TMTs potentially more open to being challenged and exploring new alternatives (Nielsen and Nielsen, 2013). Yet, such questions have yet to be answered by empirical research. Better understanding of the TMT compositional characteristics and their effects on SP interventions seems ripe for further investigation.
Closely related to power and TMT influences is the issue of consensus vs divergence. As pointed out by van der Heijden (2000), scenarios are effective only when the right balance between convergence and divergence of views is achieved. However, how exactly this consensus is achieved remains unclear. If consensus is influenced by power, then it is potentially detrimental to SP. When “groupthink” or consensus dominates, non-conforming views are discouraged or marginalized, which narrows the concerns and capabilities of organizations (Janis and Mann 1977; Miller, 1993). As the power of the dominant coalition generally maintains particular worldviews, norms or traditions, it is of paramount importance in SP interventions to neutralize these influences. Consequently, further research pointing to mechanisms that balance out this power may be of particular value.
In sum, the literature pays insufficient attention to the embeddedness of the SP process and the potential constraining effects that organizational identity, routines, emotions and power and politics might exert. Future research is encouraged to investigate such organizational effects and identify ways to prevent them from negatively influencing the SP process.
Scenario planning team composition, function and positioning
The SP team has the potential to balance some of the negative organizational influences and is key in SP reaching successful organizational outcomes (Wack, 1985a). However, research on the SP team is scarce, and questions about its composition, function and positioning remain unanswered. For instance, should the SP team be a cross-functional team? In which part of the organization should the team be anchored? To whom should they report – e.g. organizational positioning? What are the optimal backgrounds, experiences and personalities of the members? Based on which criteria should the SP team select participants for scenario building workshops?
Specifically, future research should clarify what is the purpose of the SP team? If it is only to facilitate SP interventions, then it is unlikely that SP will have positive effects, as facilitation will likely converge into the views and needs of key stakeholders. Rather, the main task or mandate of the SP’s team should be to challenge and ask the difficult questions that managers or key stakeholders do not want to ask or hear. However, this is likely to trigger emotional responses or face political pressures which creates the next pressing need for research about the SP team, namely, positioning. It is important to identify mechanisms to shield this team from these social and political influences. Changing the reporting line from the upper echelon tiers of the organization to the Board of Directors may help minimize some of the political influences. Finally, the internal composition of this team is in need of further investigation. For instance, the cultural backgrounds of the participants have the potential to affects the outcomes of the process (Barbanente et al., 2002; Johnston 2001). The work by Hodgkinson and Healey (2008) on SP team composition is an important first step in this direction; however, more research, for instance grounded in social identity theory (Turner and Oakes, 1986) or human personality (Digman, 1990) seems fruitful.
Scenario planning learning flows – from the individual to the organization
A largely under-researched area was found in the mechanisms that move SP learning from the individual to the organization at large. The literature mainly speaks to the individual or group level; for example, the people participating in the scenario building sessions. But how knowledge flows to other individuals within the organization (both laterally and vertically) is poorly understood. It appears that, similar to models for organizational learning or sense making, SP reaches the organization at large through the dissemination of the different scenarios and the sense-giving process of making the implications of such scenarios context-specific for the recipients. It is only gradually that the learning from SP is transmitted from individual to group and organizational levels.
Oddly, most of the extant literature focuses on externally driven stand-alone interventions. Conceptually, these single interventions resemble what change and intervention theory calls episodic change (Weick and Quinn, 1999). Episodic change occurs when a change agent deliberately establishes conditions and circumstances that are different from what they are now (i.e. scenarios). This is accomplished through a series of actions or interventions either singularly or in collaboration with other people, such as external consultants, the SP team, scenario building workshops, etc. (Ford and Ford, 1994). Episodic change follows the freeze-transition-refreeze sequence and although people are highly motivated to learn during the transition stage, it is difficult to unfreeze patterns and relapse to previous patterns is likely (Weick and Quinn, 1999). Furthermore, research on individual change behavior indicates that people exposed to interventions are normally at one of the following stages: pre-contemplation, contemplation, action or maintenance (Prochaska et al., 1992). These steps follow a spiral-like pattern with successive relapses to previous stages before action is taken. To this end, Beer and Eisenstat (1996) illustrated how difficult it is to achieve individual and organizational change from episodic interventions. Yet, most of the anecdotal evidence is from self-reported, single interventions, and future studies must validate such findings in large-scale, multi-intervention research designs.
SP seems better conceptualized in line with intervention theory for continuous change which entails constant learning (Weick and Quinn, 1999). An attitude toward continuous learning and adaptation must be institutionalized. In this way, feedback loops can be established. Learning from prior SP processes informs subsequent iterations leading, over time, to change and adaptation. Given the learning benefits attributed to SP, organizational learning theory offers a particularly promising conceptual lens for theoretically grounding SP. Yet surprisingly, few studies have empirically explored this possibility (Chermack et al., 2006). By the same token, because SP spans individual, group and organizational level of analysis, it is multilevel in nature. Hence, SP research will greatly benefit from detailed accounts of the evolution of the process over time, the interactions across levels and the mechanisms that potentially facilitate or preclude SP from impacting organizational outcomes. Multilevel research may add value in uncovering the mechanisms that move knowledge and learning via SP from the individual to the organizational level.
The four research areas, accompanied by specific research questions and potential theoretical lenses, are summarized in Table I.
SP remains an important yet academically understudied strategic intervention technique used by many firm; particularly, multinational firms faced with ever-changing conditions in their external environment. This study contributes to research by offering a coherent and consistent framework for understanding SP as a dynamic process. The framework provides structure to a disorganized normative literature by specifying the antecedents, processes and outcomes relevant to the SP process. As such, it offers future researchers with a systematic way to ascertain where a particular study may be located in the SP process and, importantly, how it may influence – or be influenced by – various factors in the process. The ensuring research questions provide precise guidelines to future scholars pursuing research on SP.
Research agenda for SP
|Research areas||Research questions||Theoretical lenses|
|Scenarios as effective cognitive devices or sources of bias||What determines the quality of scenarios in terms of variety, novelty and treatment of discontinuities?
What mechanisms influence these characteristics, and how to improve them?
What are the effects of well-constructed scenarios on individual/organizational cognition
|The organizational context and influences on SP processes||How do human cognitions and social interactions impact SP processes?
What role do emotions play in relation to SP?
How do routines and organizational identity affect SP?
How does the tension between adequate anchoring and power and politics influence various SP processes?
What are the effects of TMT characteristics on SP implementation and outcomes?
What are some mechanisms that may neutralize potential barriers to implementation of SP processes?
|CP, SP, UE, SIT, NE, OC|
|SP team composition, function and positioning||What is the most appropriate composition of the SP team given organizational and environmental uncertainties?
Where in the organizations should the SP team be anchored to be most effective?
How can the core SP team shield SP from organizational influences?
|SIT, HR, P, PDP, UE|
|SP as continuous change intervention||What are the transferring mechanisms within and across levels of SP?
What is the relationship between SP and organizational learning models?
What drives SP interventions in the short, medium and long term?
How do SP interventions influence organizational performance over time?
|OL, MLT, CIT, P|
Legend: CP: cognitive psychology; BDT: behavioral decision theory; SP: social psychology; UE: upper echelons; SIT: social identity theory; NE: neuro-economics; OC: organizational cognition; HR: human resources; P: psychology; PD: power dependence; OL: organization learning; MLT: multi-level theory; CIT: change and intervention theory
|Authors (year)||Firm, industry or region||Link to Figure 1||Sample and method||Main motivations/Research question||Key findings||Theoretical perspective|
|Acar and Druckenmiller (2006)||||Conceptual||Present new SB technique combining dialectical inquiry, scenarios, causal maps and systems dynamics||Dynamic and interactive analytical capabilities are achieved, capable of providing backward and future strategic analysis||System dynamics|
|Alessandri et al. (2004)||The National Ignition Facility, USA||
|Conceptual and case study||Argue for usefulness of combining qualitative approaches such as SP and qualitative options to value capital projects when faced with high uncertainty||As uncertainty increases, managers use more qualitative approaches in the decision process. Combining elements from management and finance should improve project assessment and evaluation||Finance hybrid DM approach|
|Aligica (2005)||[2-3]||Conceptual||Investigate epistemic functions of scenarios||Scenarios create knowledge from a psychological (cognitive function) and an epistemic (increase stock of knowledge) point of view||Epistemic|
|Amer et al. (2011)||Wind energy in Pakistan||||Conceptual and illustration||Explore new approach creating scenarios with fuzzy cognitive maps (FCM)||FCM combines the benefits of qualitative and quantitative analysis to generate consistent and plausible scenarios||SP literature|
|Bacon (2012)||Russia||||Literature review and case study||Review literature on scenario based accounts for “Russia’s future”||Analysis of 13 scenario-based interventions for Russia reveals a rather uniform account of 3 or 4 futures. General skepticism on the validity of the method||SP literature|
|Barbanente et al. (2002)||Metropolitan Tunis||[7-2]||Case study||Present a case study for scenario building in Metropolitan Tunis, with focus on the political and cultural characteristics of the participants||Despite social and political differences impacting process and participation rate, remaining participants gradually identified themselves as a group||SP literature|
|Biloslavo and Dolinšek (2010)||Climate change||||Quantitative and simulations||Develop a scenario for global warming from combining the Delphi method, analytical hierarchy process (multi criteria decision method) and dynamic fuzzy cognitive maps||Global warming scenario created, and implications for policy makers discussed||SP literature|
|Bishop et al. (2007)||||Literature review||Review the techniques for scenario development||8 main categories identified||SP literature|
|Boaventura and Fischmann (2008)||Information technology–Brazil||||Case study||Development of a method to check content and consistency of future’s visions||Proposed method was capable of analyzing the visions of the future and indicate shortcomings and inconsistencies at the studied firm||SP literature|
|Bodwell and Chermack (2010)||[2-3]||Conceptual||Propose SP as a tool for promoting organizational ambidexterity||Three capabilities of the ambidexterity literature are present in scenario planning: sensing, seizing and reconfiguring||Organizational ambidexterity|
|Börjeson et al. (2006)||||Literature review and conceptual||Present a new scenario typology||3 main categories are proposed||SP literature|
|de Brabandere and Iny (2010)||||Conceptual experienced-based observations||Outline a new approach for scenario planning||9-step methodology that combines creativity with methodical prospective approach. Authors argue this “expressway” to scenarios is fast, impactful, practical and built by top executives. Lack of analysis depth is the trade-off||SP literature|
|Bradfield et al. (2005)||||Literature review and conceptual||Address the confusion over the definitions and methods of scenarios||No widespread consensus on definition or framework to which scenarios techniques belong. Three main schools identified–intuitive logics, probabilistic modified trends and LA prospective school||SP literature|
|Bryant and Lempert (2010)||Public policy, USA||
|Conceptual and case study||Presents a new approach for scenario building–scenario discovery||Proposed methodology addresses some of the limitations of qualitative scenario approaches. Provides a firmer foundation for decision analysis||SP literature|
|Burt (2010)||Firm. International drinks group||
|Case study||Extend understanding of the art of re-perceiving as proposed by Wack (1985a)||Social discourse during scenario building helps make sense of historical events which were seen but not understood; a new reality emerged. Identifying predetermined elements is a critical element of SP, and central to its success||SP literature|
|Burt (2011)||Power industry, UK||
|Conceptual and case study||Propose integration of SP and systems modelling to identify predetermined elements||Better understanding of the situation emerged from the combination of SP with its intuitive sense making abilities, and the rational analysis of systems dynamic. Both methodologies should be combined in an iterative manner||Systems modeling|
|Burt and Chermack (2008)||
|Conceptual||Discuss a wide range of issues concerning SP||SP is a process able to support adaptive organizational learning. Some pitfall of SP are lack of overarching model, implementation and evaluative methods||Individual and organizational learning|
|Burt and van der Heijden (2008)||Global Scotch whiskey industry||[1-2]||Case study||Propose a framework for helping understanding the nature, objective and purpose of foresight||A framework providing guidance on the purpose of foresight is proposed and argued as a necessary precondition for the scenario (foresight) project to be successful and meet expectations||Appreciative system theory|
|Burt and van der Heijden, 2003||Small and medium size enterprises, Scotland||[1-2]||Conceptual experienced based||Different hurdles in foresight methods are discussed||Tacit assumptions about SP, client “state of mind” and fear of the future are hurdles that originate from a lack of purpose clarity before the process starts||SP literature|
|Cagnin and konnola (2014)||IMS202 intelligent manufacturing system||
|Case study||Diagnosis, exploration, prescription||Mapping and devising a framework for scenarios based on main impact dimensions||SP literature|
|Cairns et al. (2006)||UK local governments and partner organization||[1-2]
|Case study||Compare two cases of scenario interventions in a cross-governmental agencies setting||The role of the project sponsor must be discussed from the outset as it could derail the project. Power influences are important||SP literature|
|Chakraborty (2011)||Regional planning||
|Case study||Assessing a participatory framework within SP intended for creating awareness and knowledge||Combining innovative participatory methods and quantitative modeling has potentials. Planner’s role should be one of active involvement||SP literature|
|Chermack et al. (2006)||||Conceptual and empirical||Examines the “strategic conversation” construct within the SP context||Type 1 (individual) and 2 (interaction) conversation and communication skills increased after SP intervention. Results are tenuous due to small sample (n = 9) and instrument used||SP literature|
|Chermack (2004a, 2004b)||[2-3]||Conceptual||Review the potential benefits of SP in aiding decision-making||SP has the potential to address four key causes of erroneous decisions: Change mental models, reduce bounded rationality, consideration of exogenous and endogenous variables and, reduce information stickiness and increase knowledge friction||Decision-making|
|Conceptual||Propose a theoretical framework for SP||Model builds from 5 units of analysis: scenarios, learning, mental models, decisions and performance. Hypotheses are proposed||SP literature|
|Chermack and Nimon (2008)||Technology firm, USA||[2-3]||Quantitative||Examine the relationship between SP and participants’ decision-making style||There were some changes in participant’s decision-making (DM) styles three months after the SP effort. Specifically, SP decreased rational DM and increased intuitive DM||Psychology|
|Chermack and Nimon (2013)||USA||
|Quantitative||Examine moderators and mediators in scenario analysis||How employees communicate and form mental models about the organization explains their perceptions of learning||SP literature
|Chermack and van der Merwe (2003)||[2-3]||Conceptual||Show the links between SP and the constructivist approach to learning and teaching||Constructivist principles of learning and teaching, such as individual construction of meaning, social influences and social construction of reality can inform the SP process||Constructivism|
|Chermack et al. (2006)||Educational institution, USA||[2-3]||Quantitative||Quantitatively verify the SP assumption of its capacity to increase learning at the organizational level||SP intervention is associated with increased perception of organizational learning. However, reduced sample set prevents generalization||Cognition HRM literature|
|Chermack et al. (2010)||||Conceptual||Position SP and organization ambidexterity as tools for organizational effectiveness||Through their ability to enhance team performance, SP and organizational ambidexterity have the potential to enhance firm effectiveness||Organizational teams|
|Chermack et al. (2015)||
|Quantitative||Participant perceptions of organizational climate||Results suggest an overall change in perceptions of organizational climate based on the scenario planning intervention||Psychology
|Cobb and Thompson (2012)||Park planning and management||
|Case study||Evaluation of scenario planning process||The scenario planning workshops encouraged explorative and active dialogue. Through such dialogue organization resilience is nurtured and innovations adopted||Systems innovation Organizational resilience|
|Cornelius et al. (2005)||Shell||
|Case study (historical)||Present a brief account of the evolution and uses of the Shell scenarios during the past three decades||SP is a good tool for understanding uncertainties but it is not designed for selecting investments and allocating capital. Use scenarios in combination with ROA||SP literature|
|Dammers (2010)||Territorial Europe||||Conceptual and case study||Discuss new approach for creating scenarios that combines the three well known approaches for scenarios||Combination of strengths of the three different approaches appear to be fruitful because of the quantitative and qualitative dimensions. Institutional feasibility and unsurprising scenarios are noted||SP literature|
|Dinka and Lundberg (2006)||Technology design||[7-2]||Case study||Understand effects of identity (values and opinions) and role (what they do, professional competences) during technology design via scenario workshops||Both identity and role have a significant impact on scenario’s process and results||Individual identity|
|Driouchi et al. (2009)||Location decision||[3-4]
|Case study||Presentation of problem structuring methodology to assess real option decisions under uncertainty||By combining robustness analysis, real options thinking and scenario planning, dynamic flexibility is created in project planning||Real option theory|
|Durance and Godet (2010)||||Conceptual||Revising some important concepts of scenarios and foresight||Scenarios and foresight are not synonymous. Distinction between normative and exploratory scenarios. Time implications. Provides tools for methodological rigor||SP literature|
|Elkington and Trisoglio (1996)||Shell||
|Case study||Present a case study where Shell, despite being a pioneer in scenario planning, ignored trends in the public opinion that were clear, and consequently made wrong decisions||Scenarios constructed at Shell were “individualist” or “hierarchist”, which could be associated with the characteristics of a large multinational firm at the time. Obvious trends were missed||SP literature|
|Eriksson and Weber (2008)||[7-2]
|Conceptual||Achieve a conceptual consolidation and review methodological aspects of adaptive foresight||Adaptive foresight by adopting ideas of adaptive planning can overcome many of the shortcomings of foresight methods||SP literature|
|Evans (2011)||[2-3]||Conceptual||Strengthen theoretical foundations of SP by drawing parallels with evolutionary theory||Because SP has modes of selection and variation at the firm level, evolutionary theory is a useful approach for strengthening SP conceptual foundations. SP has the potential to induce firm’s exploratory learning and variation or reinforce structural inertia||Evolutionary theory|
|Fink et al. (2005)||
|Conceptual||Describe new strategic foresight approach by combining external (market uncertainties) and internal (resource based approach) scenarios||The combined approach is able to create a strategic early warning system||Resource-based view|
|Forge (2009)||EU policy||||Conceptual and case study||Present a novel approach that combines a number of methods to produce a robust tri level quantitative estimators, driven by qualitative analysis||It is possible to combine micro and macro level variables by using meso economics||Economics|
|Freeman and Pattinson (2010)||
|Case study||Explore different “client” relationships||Client involvement is necessary. His/her positioning in the firm’s network could act as a transfer conduit of the scenario learning experience to the rest of the organization, or as barrier||SP literature|
|Gilley et al. (2010)||[7-2]||Literature review and conceptual||Construct theoretical model for building effective teams||Several independent and disconnected theories are summarized into a synergetic and comprehensive model for building effective teams||Organizational teams|
|Glick et al. (2012)||Organizations involved in SP projects (10)||[2-3]||Quantitative||Empirically assess the effects of SP on participant’s mental models||Evidence of SP being able to alter some of individual’s mental model styles||Cognition|
|Goodier et al. (2010)||Construction||||Case study||Present scenario building approach that shift focus from company level into industry level||Findings show that the process successfully engaged participants and helped them understand potential collective issues||SP literature|
|Goodwin and Wright (2001)||
|Conceptual and hypothetical case||Propose a method for addressing an underdeveloped aspect of SP: the assessment of alternatives across a range of scenarios||The use of multi-attribute value modelling meets the needs for a formal strategic evaluation process within SP potentially avoiding biases emanating from use of heuristics when making decisions||Decision analysis|
|Goodwin and Wright (2010)||||Literature review and conceptual||Review of the methods intended for aiding in the anticipation of high impact, rare events||Forecasting methods and non-forecasting methods (such as SP) are problematic in anticipating rare events and firms should 1) have downside protection and 2) provide conditions for challenging thinking||Forecasting
|Gordon (2011)||South Africa and Tanzania||[1-2]
|Case study (contrasting cases)||Investigate under which conditions “visionary” scenarios are useful||Paper sets limits to when “visionary” scenarios should be used, and when alternative methodology with an “adaptive” focus should be pursued||SP literature|
|Hanafizadeh et al. (2011)||Investment company, Iran||
|Case study||Integrating scenario planning and a MCDA method–PROMETHEE||The combination of the two methods created a portfolio that is stable in four different scenarios||Portfolio theory|
|Hanssen et al. (2009)||Regional foresight||[7-2]||Conceptual||Identify and discuss potential dilemmas related to democratic legitimacy of foresight processes||Foresight processes generally lack procedures to ensure compliance with democratic values. Equal participation is not guaranteed. Accountability is tenuous and level of transparency inadequate||Governance literature|
|Hanssen et al. (2003)||||Conceptual||Provide a framework for the evaluation of scenario planning as DM tool||Scenario-based DM evaluated from a case based, empirical or theoretical point of view. Each has been inconclusive to determine if and how scenario-based DM is beneficial||SP literature|
|Conceptual and case study||Challenges for scenario teams||Scenario planning process as learning and the role of scenario teams||SP literature
|Heinonen and Lauttamäki (2012)||Climate and energy policy, Finland||;
|Case study||Present an example on how Foresight can assist public policy formulation||Generally useful, although some problems are reported with relation to predictability, disconnection to decision-making and modification of results to make them more palatable in a political context||SP Literature|
|Hodgkinson and Healey (2008)||||Conceptual||Make propositions for the design of SP interventions centred around team composition||The starting point for design processes – in SP or elsewhere – should be at a theoretical level, borrowing from existent theory, rather than from problem specific empirical studies||Personality and social psychology|
|Hodgkinson and Wright (2002)||Firm in global publishing industry||
|Conceptual and case study||Report and reflect on the reasons for a failed SP intervention||Psychological defensive mechanisms were triggered by the stress generated from the SP intervention which highlighted threats, but no clear strategic alternatives||Conflict theory of DM|
|Maghouli et al. (2011)||
|Conceptual||Discussion of uses of MCDA in strategic decision making||Proposal of new approach for using MCDA in combination with scenarios to aid strategic decision-making||Decision analysis|
|Huss and Honton (1987)||||Literature review and conceptual||Describe 3 SP techniques with & advantages and disadvantages||A firm’s choice of SP techniques might partly depend on the level of detail required to make a decision||SP literature|
|Iseli et al. (1999)||Pharmaceutical industry, UK||||Case study||Present the results of using judgmental modeling in a scenario workshop with 18 senior managers||Combined methodological approaches are necessary for group decision making. Judgmental modelling aided in the analysis of outcomes. The use of technology to quantify and interpret group data moderated the workshop||Judgmental modeling|
|van der Lijn (2010)||Sudan||||Case study||Compare 4 scenarios for Sudan in year 2012||Four scenarios developed, implications and policy options. High similarity in the scenarios constructed in different workshops is noted||SP literature|
|Conceptual and case study||Improve cognitive mapping for scenario planning by combining quantitative analysis and integration of stakeholders’ mental models||Fuzzy cognitive mapping (combines intuitive cognitive mapping with quantitative analysis) has potential to overcome information processing limitations. Different plausible scenarios can be created||SP literature|
|Conceptual||Review the leanings and limitations of foresight studies||Need of better theoretical base. Evaluation, linkage to strategy and cultural considerations are under-developed areas of foresight studies||SP literature|
|Conceptual||Present a new scenario planning methodology–Transformative||Some reference to scenario team composition||SP literature|
|Kennedy and Avila (2013)||Brazil automotive industry||
|Case study||Macro-economic and political stability as criteria for scenarios together with market uncertainty||Scenario-based models predict volatility in Brazil vehicle market and helps auto maker forecast future demand||SP literature|
|Keough and Shanahan (2008)||[7c]
|Conceptual||Collapse common elements in different SP methodologies into a generic model||The proposed generic SP model include 5 constructs: Engagement, team composition, SB, decision process and increased performance||SP literature|
|Kivijärvi et al. (2010)||University management and manufacturing industry||[2-3]||Conceptual and case study||To provide a conceptual base for scenario process as a community of knowledge sharing that promotes organization innovativeness||Inconclusive evidence of scenario process as capable of promoting knowledge creation, sharing, and sustain organizational innovativeness||Knowledge creation|
|Korte and Chermack (2007)||[2-3]||Conceptual||Investigate scenario planning as a tool to change organization culture||SP invites change in organizational culture by facilitating the reconstruction of shared mental models that govern the actions of the organization||SP literature|
|Kowalski et al. (2009)||Renewable Industry, Austria||
|Case study||Analyze the combined use of scenario building and participatory multi-criteria analysis (PMCA)||Assessing scenarios with PMCA is resource intense, but the methodology allows for a robust and democratic DM process||Decision analysis|
|Lempert et al. (2006)||Pollution control||
|Conceptual and case stud||Demonstrate an approach for finding robust strategies under conditions of deep uncertainty||Robust, adaptive DM under uncertainty can be born from combining ideas of SP with decision analysis approach||Decision analysis|
|MacKay and McKiernan (2004)||[7-2]||Conceptual||Deepen the understanding of the effects of hindsight over foresight||Counter-to-factual analysis can reduce hindsight which results from shallow perceptions of history, thus enhancing foresight||Psychology and history|
|MacKay and McKiernan (2010)||
|Conceptual and experienced-based observations||Investigate possible dysfunctions and dark sides of creativity and innovation within scenario planning||Four dysfunctions are inferred and four options for dealing with them are proposed||Organizational psychology|
|||Conceptual and short experiments||Review of “imaginary” and its possible applications in scenario planning||Imaginary techniques combined with rational processes can enhance the scenario planning processes||Educational research|
|Mahmoud et al. (2009)||Environmental decision-making||
|Conceptual||Proposal of a formal approach to scenario development in environmental decision-making||A potential unifying framework with impact in DM requires validation, verisimilitude, confidence and clear communication. It is an iterative, dynamic process. A performance criteria for reward/penalty should be present||SP literature|
|Mahmud (2011)||City planning, Indonesia||||Case study||Development plan to formulate a 25-year city vision||City preferred future. Shows inconsistencies like “no data”, “preferred future”, “position the strategy for that future”, etc.||SP literature|
|Mannermaa (1988)||[1-2]||Conceptual||Investigate the implications and new perspectives that complexity thinking can bring to “futures research”||Ideas brought from complexity thinking outline a new concept for “futures research”||Complexity theory|
|McWhorter and Lynham (2014)||
|Conceptual||Virtual scenario planning||Virtual SP activities facilitate interaction between geographically dispersed locations reducing costs and providing access to learning tools||Human resource management theory
|Mietzner and Reger (2005)||||Literature review and conceptual||Discusses differences in scenario approaches||Some scenario techniques are revised. Strengths and weaknesses discussed||SP literature|
|Miller and Waller (2003)||[3,4]
|Conceptual||Present an integrated risk management process using SP and ROA, which have complementary strengths and weaknesses||The integrated risk management approach incorporates RO and SP as a bottom-up approach that remains mainly qualitative, and promotes coordinated strategic and financial hedging responses to environmental uncertainty||Risk management|
|Mobasheri et al. (1989)||Electric utilities||[3-4]||Case study||Present a case study of SP planning implementation at Southern California Edison||The SP process enabled the development of strategies. Scenario-based planning became the standard way of planning after bad experiences with traditional forecasting methods||SP literature|
|Moyer (1996)||British Airways||
|Case study||Present the scenario planning exercise and lessons learned at British Airways||Scenarios caused British Airways to broaden their views||SP literature|
|||Conceptual and (virtual) case study||Investigate new method for generating scenarios–hybrid intelligent scenario generator||Proposed hybrid methodology allows coexistence in scenario creation of fuzzy rules and a learning algorithm able to learn and correct from experts||Intelligence systems|
|Muskat et al. (2012)||Demographic changes||||Refurbished case study||Investigate mixed methodology approach with a qualitative-quantitative-qualitative sequence for scenario generation||Usage of a quantitative layer within a qualitative scenario generation is beneficial as it is able to reduce bias and generate results of high frequency and consistency||SP literature|
|Nowack et al. (2011)||||Literature review and conceptual||Investigate how the Delphi method can enhance the quality of scenario planning||Recommends integrating the Delphi technique with scenario studies||SP literature|
|O’Keefe and Wright (2010)||Manufacturing||
|Case study||Present a case study for an unsuccessful SP intervention in an organization||Inertia in DM can be extreme. Even if pressure for change is strong, this will not guarantee a change in strategy if past decisions are at risk of being questioned, thus unsettling some powerful individuals||Conflict theory of DM/structural inertia|
|Özkaynak and Rodríguez-Labajos (2010)||Projects in Turkey and Spain||||Conceptual and case study||Develop an approach for local-scale scenario building||Clarifies conditions under which different interaction methods can be used for local scenario building||SP literature|
|Pagani (2009)||3G mobile TV in Europe||
|Case study||Provide a tool for developing corporate or business strategies||Combination of strategic thinking and scenario evaluation via cross-impact analysis allows the generation of qualitative and quantitative scenarios that can be used as a planning tool||SP literature|
|Pagano and Paucar-Caceres (2008)||[2-3]||Conceptual||Examination of a framework for systematic elicitation of knowledge from individual level to firm level||Connections between scenario building and causal mapping as elicitation methods are made to the developmental dimension of the Holmic framework for organizational learning||Organizational learning|
|Page et al. (2010)||Tourism, Scotland||||Case study||Use of scenario planning as a methodology to help understanding the future of tourism||SP, when combined with quantitative tools, such as economic modeling, has the potential to identify a range of issues to aid policy makers||SP literature|
|Phadnis et al. (2015)||
|Case study (field experiments)||Effects of scenario planning on field expert’s judgment of long-range investment decisions||Use of multiple scenarios does not cause an aggregate increase or decrease in expert’s confidence in their judgment. Rather, judgment changes in accordance with how an investment fares in a given scenario||SP literature
|Phelps et al. (2001)||Water and IT
|||Case study||Explore the effects of SP on firm performance||Some tentative evidence of improved financial performance as a result of SP in two UK industries. Small sample and lack of control variables reduce the validity of the results||SP literature|
|Piirainen and Lindqvist (2010)||Paper industry||||Literature review and case study||Introduction of two new methods to create scenarios. Both methodologies are mediated by Group Support Systems (GSS)||Both methodologies proposed–IDEAS and SAGES–are suggested as capable of reducing resources in the scenario building phase, but rigor is also reduced||SP literature|
|e Cunha and Chia (2007)||
|Conceptual||Discuss role of teams in improving organization’s peripheral vision||Teams with exploratory purposes, specially of the minimally structured and immersed type, might aid organizations in exploring the periphery||Organizational teams|
|Postma and Liebl (2005)||||Conceptual||Elaborate alternative scenario building techniques to overcome drawbacks of current methodologies||Causality and consistency in scenario building, which are deemed as necessary, could lead to serious issues in the presence of complex and paradoxical trends not considered beforehand. Alternative SB techniques are proposed||SP literature|
|Ram et al. (2011)||Food security in Trinidad and Tobago||||Conceptual and case study||Introduce regret as a comparison criteria across different options; and present a new methodology for constructing scenarios faster||The proposed methodology could be deployed quickly; incorporates subjective judgments for multiple objectives, and is able to evaluate options across and within scenarios. Several drawbacks are noted||Decision analysis|
|Rikkonen et al. (2006)||Public sector strategic planning. Agricultural||||Literature review||Present use of expert’s information in strategic planning processes||Delphi studies promote alternative approaches to strategic thinking by broadening the knowledge base. Two alternative Delphi approaches are discussed||SP literature|
|Roubelat (2006)||Electricite de France||
|Conceptual and case study||Analyze the parallels between SP and emerging ideologies and present a longitudinal case to illustrate interest and traps of the SP methodology||Organizational structures are rarely adapted to question dominant paradigms; hence the need to have a SP network outside the corporation capable of challenging old paradigms||SP literature|
|Roubelat (2000)||[1-2]||Conceptual||Review SP in light of its capacity to use and create networks||The context of corporate SP is always in motion; shifting. Thus, a need for a network structure, not single companies’ efforts for creating overall scenarios (global, environmental, not strategic). Smaller firms can benefit from such networks||SP literature|
|Sankaran et al. (2014)||Australian aged care and community care||
|Qualitative (workshops and observations)||Action research to show connection between theory and practice||Showed importance of leadership skills and emotions in driving scenario planning and building. Passion, emotions and power were emphasized in the process||Action research and practice theory
|Sarpong (2011)||[5-1]||Conceptual||Investigate scenario thinking as an everyday practice||Scenario thinking should not be seen as an episodic intervention but an everyday practice. Academics looking at scenario thinking need to understand daily practices at the firm and how those are enacted||Social theory of practice|
|Sarpong and Maclean (2011)||Product innovation teams. Software firms||[2-3]
|Conceptual and case study||Increase understanding of causal link between scenario thinking and innovation||Scenario thinking as a dynamic, iterative and never completed practice. Does not necessarily lead to innovation. Creative emergence and open-endedness of the practice as mechanisms potentially leading to innovation||Social theory of practice|
|Schoemaker (1993)||MBA students. University of Chicago||[2-3]||Experiments||Understanding why the use of scenarios is growing and its psychological effects||SB expands people’s thinking by focusing on biases of the human mind such as overconfidence and anchoring||Psychology|
|Sedor (2002)||Professional sell side analysts||[2-3]||Quantitative||Investigate whether information presented within a scenario framework affects analysts’ forecasts||When managers present future plans to analysis framed as scenarios, analysts tend to issue more optimistic forecasts two years out||Psychology|
|Conceptual||Discuss how scenarios attain and compel people to action, or influence decisions from the conceptual understanding of trust||Scenarios are not about truth but trust. Whose ends are being served by presenting scenarios one way or another? Trustworthiness in scenarios should be investigated from the sources, content, methodology, narrative and dissemination||Trust and power theory|
|UK construction||(2]||Case study||Develop a method using causal mapping for combining perspectives of multiple participants, in a multi organizational context, during the scenario creation||A collective map merging causal mappings from several participants was created. This map helped increase the understanding in a wider context at the cost of taking longer time and being more intellectually demanding||SP literature|
|Sharma and Yang (2015)||Interactive digital media industry||
|Case study||New methodology combining qualitative and quantitative tracking of dimensions via automated Web crawler||Plausible new scenarios are generated which are particularly useful in dynamic industries||SP literature|
|[1-2]||Conceptual||Make an assessment of the validity of complexity theory, and its implications towards Foresight such as forecasting or SP (If complexity thinking is validated, these techniques become irrelevant)||It is premature to give theory status upon complexity as full explanation of how it works in firms and social systems has not been presented. There is no evidence in favor of disregarding forecasting or scenario techniques||Complexity theory|
|Söderholm et al. (2011)||Global. Climate change||||Literature review and conceptual||Analyzing the differences in the scenarios previously presented, especially in relation to governance and institutional issues||Both qualitative and quantitative scenarios have serious limitations. Need for a synthesis of quantitative and qualitative methods for scenario analysis||SP literature|
|Song et al. (2006)||Beijing||
|Case study||Use SP to sketch Beijing’s 2020 urban planning||SP is informative and can accommodate uncertainty. The MAUA evaluation framework to assess scenarios informs decision makers||SP literature|
|Music industry||||Case study||Suggest a visual technique to collect scenario planning information||The collage technique can overcome some of the problems of verbal communication techniques||SP literature|
|Stepchenko and Voronova (2014)||Baltic non-life insurance||
|Case study||Six leading Baltic non-life insurance companies||Risk management and scenarios based on both qualitative and quantitative measures||Finance and risk management|
|Stewart et al. (2013)||Agricultural policy planning||
|Conceptual and hypothetical example||Review and explore synergies between MCDA and scenario planning||Synergies between scenario planning and quantitative decision modeling can be exploited in complex decision contexts||Decision analysis|
|Stokke et al. (1990)||Oil and Gas, Norway||[3-4]||Case study||Present a case study for scenario-based decision-making||SP can improve Statoil’s R&D strategy development by better understanding the range of strategic alternatives and increasing strategic resilience||SP literature|
|Storberg-Walker and Chermack (2007)||||Conceptual||Presenting examples of alternative ways for completing the conceptual development phase of theory||Parallels are drawn between Schwartz’s (1991) 8 step SP process (creating scenarios) and Whetten’s (2002) process for creating theory. The SP method could answer what and how questions, plus generating hypotheses, but it lacks evaluation criteria||Theory building|
|Kryvinska et al. (2010)||Financial institution, South Africa||
|Conceptual and case study||Present a framework combining stochastic modelling and intuitive logic scenarios to analyze risk and uncertainty simultaneously||Complementarities of the two methods in the proposed framework should lead to improved decisions||SP literature|
|Conceptual||Make explicit the relationship between perceived environmental uncertainty and scenario planning||Propositions are developed linking scenario planning to different levels of environmental uncertainty and making explicit the need to embed scenario planning in the firm’s strategic process||Uncertainty and perceptions|
|Conceptual||Question predominant adaptive stance of scenario planning. Proposing instead goal-oriented SP||Building from the concept of enactment, a 5-step framework is proposed which emphasizes a goal-oriented SP (create future that the firm wants), not an adaptive one||Sociology|
|Totzer et al. (2011)||City of Steyr, Austria||[2-3]||Case study||Investigate if transdisciplinary processes can support more stable structures in a region||SP workshops generated knowledge by means of collaborative research. A learning process was initiated||Trans-disciplinary|
|Vainauskiene and Vaitkiene (2013)||
|Conceptual||Integrating the planning process of brand vulnerability scenarios into the brand management process||Focus on scenario planning process as stage-wise process||Strategic brand management|
|van der Heijden (2004)||[1-2]
|Conceptual||Reflect on the use and value of SP, after many years of use by organizations||Four reasons for using SP, each with different difficulties and likelihood of success are proposed. Firms should be clear from the outset what they want from SP||SP literature|
|van der Heijden (2000)||[2-3]||Conceptual||Discussing the role of scenarios from two different perspectives||Scenarios play an anticipatory role of the future by means of challenging mental models; and a social interaction role by attempting to find a middle ground between group think and fragmentation||SP literature|
|Varum and Melo (2010)||||Literature review and conceptual||Organize the SP literature due to growth on published research||Increased number of publications centered on methodologies. Shortage of theoretical literature. Notable lack of literature on the use and effects of scenario planning in business and effects on performance||SP literature|
|Visser and Chermack (2009)||9 firms in several industries||||Case study||Investigate the relationship between SP and firm performance||None of the 9 companies in the study reported means of formally assessing the value of SP. The perception from 7 of the participants was that it affects firm performance||SP literature|
|Vlek et al. (1999)||Policy for metropolitan traffic, The Netherlands||
|Case study||Empirically analyze the hypothesis that the ways individuals evaluate different scenarios affect their order of preference in such scenarios||A formal multi-attribute evaluation of scenarios leads to a different ordering of preference than scenarios being evaluated intuitively. The degree of satisfaction is also lower||Behavioral decision-making|
|Volkery and Ribeiro (2009)||Public policy making||
|Literature review and case study||Investigate uses, impact and effectiveness of scenario planning in public policy making||Scenario planning is often carried out in an ad hoc and isolated fashion, and as indirect decision support. More stable institutional settings are needed to test the method||SP literature|
|von der Gracht and Darkow (2010)||Logistics industry, Germany||||Case study||Present findings on an extensive Delphi-based scenario generation for the future of the logistics service industry in Germany||Study propose different likely scenarios for the industry and allows for some prioritization among these||SP literature|
|Walton (2008)||||Conceptual||Analyze the philosophical underpinnings of SP||A general framework for governing and observing SP and whether it meets requirements of good theory. No such theoretical foundations exist for scenarios. Evaluation of constructs such as validity, generalizability or predictability do not apply||Epistemic and ontological|
|Weng and Lin (2015)||Mobile computing technologies||
|Qualitative (expert panel)||Classification of decision-making criteria in mobile computing device and software technologies||Most mobile computing software technologies are rated high to medium in importance and low risk in both scenarios (big demand and pessimistic scenario), and scenario changes will have little impact on mobile computing devices and software||SP literature|
|Conceptual||Examine the causes of implementation problems after scenarios have been constructed||Scenario projects fail mostly because of lack of strategic actions. For scenario planning to be effective, time and practice are necessary||SP literature|
|Winch (1998)||||Conceptual and short examples||Analyze the benefits of combining scenario building with system dynamics||Scenarios cannot expose the dynamic nature of change. Systems dynamics can aid in better simulating possible futures||System dynamics|
|Worthington et al. (2009)||[2-3]||Conceptual||Article explores potential of SP as a tool for promoting innovation and corporate entrepreneurship||Scenario/contingency planning allows firms to leverage organizational learning and enhance managerial capabilities. It should be seen as opportunity generator, not only as risk mitigatory||Organizational learning|
|Wright (2005)||[2-3]||Conceptual||Propose scenarios as prospective sense making devices||Suggests that transformational change is achieved through inductive strategizing at the periphery. Scenario should be viewed as a device to enhance sense-making rather than decision-making||Social constructionism|
|Conceptual||Draw parallels between SP and quality management||SP is an iterative process that must be continuously improved and corrected as new insights and knowledge is gathered. SP could be seen as a quality approach to strategy||Organizational learning and quality management|
|Wright and Goodwin (2009)||[2-3]||Conceptual||Assessing the ability of SP to deal with problems of low predictability||Conventional SP restricts the range of potential scenarios; might reinforce current views. 4 proposals are made to enhance the method in dealing with low predictability events||Cognition|
|Wright et al. (2008)||Drinks industry, Scotland||
|Case study (contrasting)||Contrast a successful SP intervention in an organization with an unsuccessful one as reported by Hodgkinson and Wright (2002)||SP has the potential to overcome inertia in organizations but DM dilemma could accentuate inertia. Pre-interview data can aid practitioner determine whether an organization will be receptive to an SP intervention||Inertia in DM/conflict theory|
|Wright et al. (2009)||
|Conceptual||Propose remedies to SP pitfalls identified by O’Brien 2004. Additional pitfalls and remedies are discussed||Several recommendations to enhance scenario building are proposed. Multi-attribute value analysis is presented as an alternative to evaluate robustness of strategy in the constructed scenarios||SP literature decision analysis|
|Zegras and Rayle (2012)||Urban planning community in Portugal||[2-3]||Case study and empirical||Assessing participant’s propensity for collaboration and change in perceptions||Effects remain inconclusive, very modest support for increased collaboration, and no change in participant’s perception after the intervention||Psychology and collaboration|
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