Building sound and plausible scenarios is a challenging task that needs to follow a structured
process. However, before describing the scenario building itself, one should first identify the
purpose that the creation of scenarios fulfills. Academics usually distinguish between three
purposes which scenarios can accomplish:
First, scenarios are used as a onetime activity to predict and evaluate a specific, already
defined strategic plan of action.
Second, scenarios are used as a onetime activity to support and enhance a specific
strategic planning process including related decisions.
Third, scenarios are used from a onetime activity to an ongoing course of action within an
organization’s strategic planning process supporting the way in which an organization
learns (Bradfield, Wright, Burt, Cairns and van der Heijden, 2005).
What all three purposes have in common, however, is that scenarios enable managers to be
better prepared for strategic decisions, especially in times of increased volatility and
The scenario building approach presented in this paper can be used for all three purposes
explained above. Nevertheless, it is mostly applicable to the third purpose as its holistic
approach aims at utilizing scenario planning for a company’s continuous strategic planning
activities. Establishing a common understanding, we see scenarios as a plausible
description of how the future may develop based on a coherent and internally consistent set
of assumptions about key relationships and driving forces (Metz, Davidson, Bosch, Dave
and Meyer, 2007). Scenarios in the context of our approach are not meant as a forecast or
precise prediction nor do they state a desired future (Lindgren and Bandhold, 2009). Rather
they produce a picture or a story describing a possible future which, as explained in the
previous paragraph, supports organizational learning and readiness for unforeseen events.
In the sense of this paper, scenarios provide different views on the nature of the future (van
der Heijden, Bradfield, Burt, Cairns and Wright, 2002).