5 December 2015:

This insightful article from Chermack & Coons (2015) distils and interprets Pierre Wack’s original views on scenario planning.

The key discussions and findings from their research based on his personal papers and documents now accessible at the Pierre Wack Memorial Library include:

  • The concept of “predetermined elements” (identifying the predetermined elements is the activity that uncovers the true uncertainties);
  • Scenarios are not sensitivity analysis (manipulating a single variable [e.g. market demand] is not scenario planning: in the real world, a single variable never moves alone; at least one other dimension and usually many more is always affected and must be considered);
  • Scenarios must capture the dynamics that integrate to create a unique future world (which allows managers to challenge existing mental models); and
  • Scenarios must lead to management options which require strategy design, and as a result, define strategic intentions (or a strategic vision).

Pierre Wacks hidden messages

Fig. 1. Generating Management Options (Chermack & Coons 2015 from Wack 1984: this version appears in Wack’s manuscript “The gentle art of re-perceiving”, which was never officially published in its original form)

The authors conclude their article with “hidden messages” or recommendations for executives and managers:

  • Scenarios alone are not enough as they must connect to strategy and options at a minimum;
  • Scenarios are not the “product”, but a step toward real options and deeply informed decisions;
  • Be wary of any consultant selling a group process experience that results in a set of scenarios (a 2-day workshop is not a substitute for deep thinking); and
  • The primary purpose of scenarios is to change the way decision-makers see the world so that they will act with a wider, more informed point of view.

Chermack, Thomas J. & Coons, Laura M. 2015, “Scenario planning: Pierre Wack’s hidden messages”,
Futures, vol. 73, October, pp. 187-193.

Link to full text article:

Share this post: