|Business people, investors, policy-makers are all working with the future. As they make their decisions, they are assuming that future conditions will support their plans. This is entirely normal. Can anyone take a single step without assuming there will be some ground under his or her feet? No. Assumptions about the future are necessary and inevitable.
Such assumptions are also a gamble. What if they are wrong? How can a group test its own assumptions and identify alternative futures they might face? This is the work of scenario planning. Some scenario projects take months to do, building on intensive research and organisational learning. Other projects are shorter. These tend to reorganise existing knowledge into new and unexpected possibilities.
Barbara Heinzen’s corporate work has helped people understand the uncertainties they are facing. Sometimes these have concerned a particular business sector, such as petrochemicals, natural gas, automobiles or airlines. Other assignments have concentrated on developments in a region or country. Her first large scenario project in 1985 studied the future of China’s reform process. All three scenarios shaped the company’s strategic plans, including one that foresaw the crackdown in Tiananmen Square.