When presenting scenarios to senior management, the two responses you’re most likely to hear are: “We already knew that” or “That’ll never happen”. The first response suggests a lack of novelty in your work, which is often the case when obvious trends dominate the scenarios. This can occur regularly if the scenario planner is beginning their art; when they still cling to the safety of trends or haven’t developed the skills to generate surprising insights.
The second response, which is just as common, is “That’ll never happen”; it suggests a lack of engagement between management and the scenarios. Presenting senior decision makers with a foreign picture of the future is never going to drive action. There’s just too big a leap between where they’re at, and what they have just been presented with. There needs to be a bridge between their mental model and the future novelty.
When I first started building scenarios I noticed the literature was always drumming on about the importance of the storyline or the scenario title, and how these needed to evoke rich images of the future to capture the imagination of others and drive action. So I focused on the scenario stories. I tried to bring them to life with evocative descriptions and drama and images. But let me tell you, not even a combination of War and Peace and Fifty Shades of Grey will drive managers to act if they don’t have an appreciation for how the scenarios were developed. And expecting them to develop this understanding via a 45 minute presentation is foolish.
Scenarios are not about stories. These are merely the medium for delivery. Scenarios are about participatory learning. Collaboration and co-creation provide the necessary bridge to understanding and action. This is why as many people as is practical should be involved in their creation. This especially applies to senior managers and the end-users of the scenarios.
Maximising a sense of ownership is best achieved when the creative learning experience of building scenarios is shared. This participation enables a deeper understanding of the business drivers, which can then be incorporated into future decision-making.
In my time I’ve facilitated scenarios involving as few as 5 people from a single department, and as many as 90 people from across an entire industry. And while more participants might increase the complexity for the facilitator, there is no doubt that it also leads to greater organisational impact.
And this is what you want.
- Victorian Public Libraries 2030 Strategic Framework was recently recognised by the Victorian State Government as a winner of the 2013 Arts Portfolio Leadership Awards for Leadership in Collaboration
- The Victorian Public Libraries 2030 Strategic Framework can be found here.