From the Archives...

Scenario Building

[The Manual, page 204, 1983]
An extract from the Manual that was originally published by Taylor Management Centers in Boulder, Colorado.

Purpose: To order over time your projections of events in the future.

To create a map and model to guide you in your planning and decision making processes.


  1. Decide on a general-purpose or specific field scenario. If your scenario is oriented to a specific discipline, watch for developments in other fields that impact your field. Look at relationships and networks of events.

  2. Determine the number of years you will forecast for in the scenario. Go beyond your particular need, i.e., if you are looking at a field around a five year goal, build the scenario for eight or ten years.

  3. Start the process with the right place to work, such as a Management Center with walls you can write on. Otherwise, use long sheets of butcher paper tacked on the wall. It helps to have an assortment of colored markers to write with. When your tools are in order, divide your work surface into equal portions--years, months, weeks, days--according to the time period you want to forecast.

  4. Use each forecast as a springboard for adding more events to the scenario, continuing to work both from the present to the future and from the future to the present.

  5. Check each forecast for lag time. What is the time lag between a new idea and its market place implementation in your fields of concern?

  6. Collect information and document your work.

    • Look for facts to support or deny your scenario
    • Utilize Delphi methods
    • Clip from newspapers and magazines. Information in books is several years old by the time it reaches the market place. The order in which information appears in periodicals is important to note, for example: Science News addresses the newest discoveries; Scientific American writes about "known" facts; Popular Science gives product announcements; and Fortune provides business assessments.
    • Update your scenario at regular intervals. This enables you to calibrate the rate of change in your field.

  7. Keep records of all your scenarios.

  8. Always strive for a sense of synergy in your scenarios. The principle of synergy states that the behavior of a whole system is unpredictable from the behavior of its parts. This premise leads to a corollary; once you understand a system you can predict the behavior of unknown parts. If you have a conceptual, cybernetic understanding of future change, you can make predictions the "experts" will miss. You become better able to direct your personal destiny and the destination of your company.


Options For the Future, Thomas E. Jones, Praeger Press 1980
Profiles of the Future, Arthur C. Clarke, Harper & Row, 1958
The Third Wave, Alvin Toffler, Morrow, 1980


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