This is another in a series of "blogicles" on how Mess Mapping™ and Resolution Scenario Mapping processes can be used to represent, analyze, evaluate Wicked Problems and then to choose actions that ameliorate the Wicked Problem at hand.
As a business tool, Scenario Planning has been evolving since Royal Dutch Shell systematized it the early 1970s. Beginning in the mid to late 1980s, Dave Mason and Jim Herman of Northeast Consulting Resources, Inc. (NCRI) created Future Mapping. One of us (Weber) was a Principal at NCRI and contributed to the evolution of Future Mapping, which we call Resolution Mapping here.
The terms Scenarios and Scenario Planning refer to a broad range of processes and practices. For many, scenarios are comprised of alternative forecasts which are often based on quantitative modeling and projections. Alternative forecasts are generated by varying the assumptions of the model.
In the hands of some, scenario planning refers to defining a range of possible outcomes in a “what if” exercise. In the hands of others, scenario planning entails defining a sequence of steps leading from the present to some assumed future. Sometimes scenario planning refers to group brainstorms about drivers, forces, events, and possible outcomes.
These forms of scenario planning are largely “bottoms up,” “blank slate,” or “white board” brainstorming processes. The outcomes and relevant factors are identified by the working group with little preparation (as far as we can see). Common criticisms of “bottoms up” scenario planning include results that: (1) often seem more ephemeral than rigorous; (2) may not reflect much of the available data about the domain or problem area; and (3) that do not lead easily to specific action items, time frames for completion, and individual or group responsibilities.
In contrast, a Resolution Mapping workshop is a “highly prepared meeting” that uses “simulated hindsight” as a key organizing principle.
In teams, Workshop participants evaluate alternative futures or Endstates by assuming that the future is now and for each Endstate, answering the question, how did the world become this way?
The Resolution Mapping process also entails a “highly prepared meeting,” by which we mean that a significant effort goes into preparing the materials that will be used in a workshop. In consultation with the project sponsors, the facilitators prepare the Endstates, Events, and other materials ahead of the workshop. Consequently, participants find that Endstates and Events are not only realistic, but typically address the important issues in a structured, systematic process.
The workshop materials and process itself provide opportunities for stakeholders to share and evaluate differing points of view while spending very little time in the workshop on developing alternative outcomes and brainstorming key milestones or events. (Workshop participants do get to contribute new Events and do address possible relationships among the Endstates.)
Workshop participants also focus on policy initiatives and action prioritization and implementation. This action orientation leads to more satisfying project outcomes compared with the typical “bottoms up” scenario planning experience.
This series of blogicles has been jointly authored; our names appear in alphabetical order.
Mess Mapping and Mess Map are trademarks of MacroVU, Inc.
Resolution Mapping is a trademark of Strategy Kinetics, LLC.