Monday, August 31, 2009

Scenario Planning Process to Make Decisions

Scenario Planning is often used to help a group make decisions or at least review their options or choices. An example is a recent arts group that I assisted develop their options during a strategic planning process. The team from the board and staff developed a number of future scenarios that they might explore as part of their strategic plan. The options involved the issue of their theater space. The generated the following options:
  • leasing one space
  • buying a theater and making it their permanent space
  • forming a strategic alliance with another theater to jointly share in the space
  • leasing different venues by series package

Each scenario option had different implications for the arts group. The issues included their artistic productions, marketing pros and cons, target audiences, costs, and impact on their bottom line, sustainability in the community and funding.

In scenario planning, each option would be reviewed and defined. Financial projections were completed with budgets impacts costed out. The team reviewed the pros and cons - the impact of each scenario on a number of criteria that included:

  • funding from donations, foundations, corporate sponsorship
  • earned income revenue including ticket sales, subscriptions, concessions, etc
  • marketing challenges and opportunities
  • program - number of productions, seat capacity per show, and stage, lightening, and rehearsal space
  • expenses for each - short term and long term
  • community message, image and presence
  • long term viability
  • growth and image to audiences
  • cashflow impact

this criteria was developed by the board before the options were developed. They were developed to provide shared criteria so that all members could be on the same page when the options information was discussed.

The process of laying out the options, reviewing the impact of each options, generating the budget numbers and creating a mini action plan provided a valuable process to the board and staff. Staff would be able to review with all of the options with the board in a reasoned discussion. The information provided a more organized process for the board discussion so that ideas were classified under one of the options. It organized the information for the board so that they could ask thoughtful questions and review each option in their strategic planning process.

We all use scenario planning everyday. In these times, we are using the scenario planning tools to be more thoughtful about our organizations future.

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