Scenarios: “What If?”
and “Then What?”
We're talking about changes in basic
assumptions… few traditional orga-
nizations ever go through the eye of the
—Peter Senge (2002)
People have been asking “what if” and “then what” questions for centuries. For anyone thinking about the future, there are benefits to developing and playing out these types of scenarios. They can, in fact, help us describe, discuss, debate, and decide on the directions we want to go and the actions we want to take (Chase, 1984).
It's almost like a game. We've scanned our internal and external environments, perhaps involving dozens or hundreds of people in the process. We've studied the macroenvironment, looking closely at political, economic, social, technological, environmental, demographic, and educational trends and thought about their possible implications. We've considered our values and the values of those we serve or depend on for our success. We've identified issues and sorted them to determine which have a high probability of affecting our organization and its objectives. Our next step might be to frame our assumptions and develop our scenarios.
How often has someone asked, “OK, so what's the scenario?” In response, we very likely described a future course of events—what we hoped might