Join getAbstract to access the summary!

The Scenario Planning Handbook

Join getAbstract to access the summary!

The Scenario Planning Handbook

Developing Strategies in Uncertain Times

Thomson South-Western,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Use scenarios to plan for the unknowable future – one alternative projection at a time

Editorial Rating



  • Applicable


Herman Kahn, brilliant strategist and game theorist, is the godfather of scenario planning. (He partly inspired Dr. Strangelove, the creepy character played by Peter Sellers in the 1964 madcap movie of the same name.) During the 1950s and 1960s, Kahn used the intellectual tool of scenario planning to examine and write about the horrific consequences of thermonuclear war. Originally a national military strategizing tool, scenario planning crossed into the business world during the late 1960s. It does not predict the future. Rather, strategists use it to examine and plan for possible futures. Consultants and futurists Ian Wilson and William K. Ralston Jr. are bona fide scenario-planning experts, however, they could have explained more plainly exactly how companies should handle the complexities of carrying out the process. Some examples are unclear and the text sometimes becomes dense. Still, getAbstract finds that leaders and managers can benefit from this useful overview of the subject, particularly the structure of the 18-step plan for conducting a scenario-planning exercise.


A Look at Contrasting Futures

Organizational leaders cannot really plan concretely for the future because too many variables await unseen around the corner of time. The future is a constantly shifting target. Indeed, as one pundit said, the future you plan for today will not be the one you get tomorrow. That is why corporate forecasting seldom works. However, your organization can use scenario planning to speculate about a “range of possible futures,” or scenarios, and strategize accordingly. First made notable by famous strategist Herman Kahn, scenario planning lets organizations examine and evaluate “alternative futures” and develop strategies for them. Each scenario usually portrays two to four “stories of possible futures” or alternative outcomes. To handle a scenario-planning project correctly, follow these 18 steps:

  1. “Developing the case for scenarios” – Corporate cultures typically resist new approaches. To persuade your firm to try scenario planning, explain that it must prepare for the unexpected, and that scenario planning is the best tool for that purpose. It helps reduce tunnel vision and expand strategic thinking. Discuss...

About the Authors

Ian Wilson and William K. Ralston Jr. are futurists and consultants who assist corporations regarding strategic analysis, planning and execution.

Comment on this summary