Scenarios? A literary review by David Lehrer.
imaginative pictures of potential futures, but the future is just a
means to an end.” (Kleiner, 1999 p.1) Scenario building practice is used
by managers and leaders to help “themselves to see past their own blind
spots.” (Kleiner, 1999 p.1) Herman Kahn developed the practice of
scenario building to help people look at the possibility of a nuclear
war at a time when no one could believe that such a thing was possible.
His work was labeled “thinking the unthinkable” by Scientific American’s
Gerard Piel (Kleiner, 1999).
In the 70’s, Royal Dutch/Shell’s Pierre Wack used the method of scenario
building to foresee the coming oil crises and helped Royal Dutch/Shell
to develop strategies to cope with a future that was more turbulent than
anything the industry had previously experienced (Kleiner, 1999).
Scenario planning, however, is not an attempt to predict the future. It
is an attempt to imagine the unimaginable, to envision and experience
possible worlds in our imagination, in order to “prepare ourselves for
whatever future does come to pass.” (Kleiner, 1999 p.1)
“Scenarios offer an attractive alternative to the false precision
promised by point-estimate forecasts.” (Schnaars, 2001 p.7) Many believe
that a written scenario with its softer qualitative nature is more
useful in thinking about the future than quantitative methods.
It is important that managers actually experience the scenario building
process. If they are not part of the process, they will probably not
fully comprehend the results. The process takes time. “The zone in which
scenarios can be useful is not very large and has to be carefully
delineated in each exercise. It means that one cannot develop scenarios
for someone else without their significant involvement” Heijden (1997)
There is no one standard method of scenario writing. A number of authors
have outlined their recommended methods. Here are two approaches:
I. Art Kleiner in his article, “Scenario Practice”, written for
the Whole Earth Quarterly, 1999 gives an outline of the steps involved
in scenario planning:
1. “The Scenario
Question” – “figuring out the key question is a crucial step”
(Kleiner, 1999 p.1). It is also important to decide on a time frame.
From what year will the scenario look back?
2. “Driving Forces (Predetermined elements and critical
uncertainties)” – Planners must look at the major forces, which drive
the system. A differentiation must be made between predetermined
forces (such as how many 20 year olds there will be in the world 19
years from now) and unpredictable or uncertain forces. The
“brainstorming” method is used to determine the driving forces.
3. “Converging into Scenarios” – The driving forces are then combined
to create scenarios. A number of methods may be used, such as the
creation of a matrix by combing the two most uncertain forces or the
method recommended by Peter Schwartz in The Art of the Long View,
looking for archetypal plots (patterns that have repeated themselves
throughout history). The method used by Kleiner is based on choosing
the three most uncertain elements and creating stories based on these
elements being pushed to the extreme.
4. “Sub-groups and scenarios” – The group is broken into subgroups in
order to flesh out the story lines.
5. “Strategy, rehearsal, and conversation” – The critical step, once
the scenarios have been verbalized, is to discuss what these scenarios
suggest regarding current strategy. Questions should be asked, such as
are there scenarios we should try to avoid or are there scenarios we
should try to strive for. Most importantly, the question should be
asked, “With this new knowledge, what should we be doing differently
than we are doing now?” (Kleiner, 1999)
Steven Schaars in “The
Essentials of Scenario Writing” written for Business Horizons, July 2001
gives us a four-step method for writing scenarios:
1. “Generating a list
of affecting trends or factors.” This step may involve interviews with
experts and company officials as well as quantitative research and
2. “Combing the variables into groups.” Planners try to create
meaningful groups and identifying the critical drivers. Ranking and
matrixing methods are typically used.
3. “Doing the writing.” Writing the stories that are the heart of the
4. “Creating scenario strategies.” Creating a company or
organizational strategy or set of strategies in light of the
A critical step in every
scenario planning process is the determination of the Driving Forces.
The driving forces should be chosen according to the following criteria:
1. They will have order of magnitude impacts on the systems.
2. They are independent of each other (Uncorrelated)
3. They are highly uncertain.
Whatever method is used,
Peter Schwartz warns us that, “People’s minds can cope with only two or
three possibilities.” (Schwartz, 1991) There are an infinite number of
possible futures. The scenario planning process must be designed to
focus in on a finite number of scenarios, which will be meaningful to
the organization and have some effect on management decisions.
Heijden, K. (1997)
Scenarios, Strategies and the Strategy Process. Nijenrode Research
Paper Series -Centre for Organizational Learning and Change, No.
1997-01 pp. 22-24.
Kleiner, A. (1999) Scenario Practice. Whole Earth Quarterly, pp.1-6
Schnaars, S. (2001) The Essentials of Scenario Writing. Business
Horizons, July, pp. 7-21.
Schoemaker, P.J.H. (1993) Scenario Planning: A Tool for Strategic
Thinking, Sloan Management Review, MIT
Schwartz, P. (1996) The Art of the Long View. New York, Doubleday.
The Role of Scenarios in
the Dead Sea Project
The role of scenarios is to create a number
of realistic scenarios for possible futures of the Dead Sea Basin. These
scenarios will reflect trajectories or future directions that differ
from one another and therefore offer leaders and policy makers in the
region the opportunity to test present strategies for water management
and perhaps develop new ones.
The role of the
Scenario Management Tool (SMT) is to provide real numbers in order to
flesh out the stories and help determine which scenarios were realistic
enough to consider.
The time frame of the scenarios is from 2005 to 2025. Three
driving forces were assumed to have an order of magnitude impacts on the
system. These were:
1. The level of Cooperation between the three
2. The role agriculture will play in the future;
3. The type of investment in water related
The following are brief
summaries of the realistic scenarios. It is worth mentioning here
that the scenarios were the result of synthesis and deliberations first
amongst the project partners and second of information collected in the
Focus group Meetings
and from participation in relevant conferences and workshops.
Scenario I Business as
The Middle East in 2025 is reminiscent of the present day situation.
This is because after 20 years, very little has changed. The levels of
cooperation between Israelis and the Palestinians remains low, plagued
by cycles of violence followed by periods of quiet but not real peace.
The lack of progress between Israel and the Palestinians affects the
levels of cooperation between Jordanians and Israelis as well. Jordan’s
relationship with Israel remains low key and secretive, while Jordan’s
relationship with the Palestinians is cold and distrustful. The lack of
cooperation creates short-term thinking on all sides. Israel, Jordan,
and the Palestinians compete for water resources, through over pumping
and ill-conceived water projects. Agriculture continues to be protected
and receive water at below market prices compounding water stress in the
region. The economies in the area remain sluggish, though the world
economy is bouncing back after years of slow growth. The level of
the Dead Sea is back on the rise, however, the environmental
consequences of the ”Red-Dead Conduit” have yet to be fully digested.
The gypsum precipitation caused by the mixing of sulfate rich Red Sea
water with the calcium rich Dead Sea water has whitened the surface of
the Dead Sea and is having an impact on the climate in the basin. The
Sea of Galilee continues to be endangered by over pumping and the Jordan
River is nothing more than an open sewage canal.
Scenario II A Water
Stressed Out Middle East
While a Water Stressed Out Middle East may look similar to Scenario I,
this scenario describes a Middle East in the year 2025 that is ready to
explode. Cooperation remains low as in the previous scenario, and the
role of agriculture remains central, however, without the large addition
of desalinated water from the ”Red-Dead Conduit”, water stress in the
region is reaching unsustainable levels. Something has to give way.
Israel, Jordan, and Palestine seem to be heading for an outright
conflict over water in the region. The countries must either increase
the level of cooperation allowing for a more efficient and equitable use
of the water resources or vastly reduce the role of agriculture in the
region in order to avoid the oncoming conflict. The level of the
Dead Sea is at an all time low, and still sinking. Large ecological
systems around the shores of the Dead Sea have been destroyed. The
continued violence in the Middle East, combined with sinkholes and a
quickly receding shoreline, has decimated tourism in the area. A lack of
water for irrigation has turned the farming villages on the Israeli and
Jordanian shores of the Dead Sea into ghost towns. Jericho, the oldest
city in the world, has the lowest per capita water consumption in the in
Scenario III A Low
Impact Middle East
A Low Impact Middle East would require a break from present trends. In
order to reach sustainability by the year 2025, the leadership in the
Middle East, as well as the United States, found a way to break the
cycle of violence, which had plagued the area for the last 100 years.
New levels of cooperation enabled the countries in the region to work
together to find solutions to water stress and environmental problems.
The countries looked for low impact solutions in order to create new
water supplies while at the same time recognizing the need to limit
agriculture to a more sustainable dimension. Low impact water systems
such as rainwater harvesting, wastewater recycling, and efficient water
delivery systems created new water without major adverse environmental
effects. It was necessary to build a large number of desalination plants
in order to provide water to the growing population. However, the
decreased size of irrigated agriculture, climate appropriate crops, and
the improvement of irrigation systems in the region meant that treated
wastewater could serve as the major source for water for farming.
The level of the Dead Sea is slowly rising. The decrease in the use of
fresh water from the Sea of Galilee for Israel and Jordan has allowed
the Jordan River to once again flow with clean water into the Dead Sea.
Ecological systems that had been suffering for years in the Sea of
Galilee, the Jordan River, and the Dead Sea are slowly recovering.
Tourism in the area is flourishing, providing a boost to the economies
of all three nations. Ten years ago, in the year 2015, the
leadership in Israel, Palestine, and the United States brokered a
Geneva-like peace agreement entailing a total Israeli withdrawal to the
recognized borders along the ”Green Line” (’67 Armistice Line) except
for certain areas for which the Palestinians received one to one land
compensation. Israeli settlements in the West Bank were evacuated and
handed over intact to the new Palestinian state as a goodwill gesture
from Israel. A number of Palestinian refugees returned to the state of
Palestine. Jerusalem is a divided city with the Old City of Jerusalem
under joint Palestinian/Israeli sovereignty. At the White House
agreement signing ceremony, the United States President expressed
satisfaction at being able to complete the work of previous
administrations in the long struggle for a peaceful settlement in the
Scenario IV A Supply Managed Middle East
By the year 2025, the riparian nations around the Dead Sea have begun to
feel the fruits of the peace agreement reached 10 years earlier. Israel,
Palestine, and Jordan are all three experiencing better than average
growth rates. With strong economies, stable political environments, a
warm climate, and a proximity to Europe, the area has become attractive
to international investors. Tourism and agriculture are the two main
destinations of international capital. The Dead Sea Basin has become a
focus for building large hotels and resorts aimed at the European market
while all three nations are supplying more and more fresh fruits and
vegetables to European markets. Water is the key to continued economic
progress in the region and so, large water projects are a priority for
both government and private investment. The “Peace” Conduit (Red-Dead
Conduit) is providing 800 MCM of water annually to the area but with the
rapid development of the region, the need for water continues to grow.
Israel and Palestine are working together to increase their water
supplies through large desalination projects of seawater and brackish
water, dams in every available Wadi and wastewater recycling.
Rapid economic growth, large water projects, and the development of
large tracts of land for agriculture are changing the face of the
region. Pristine deserts, nature reserves, mountain Wadis, and the Dead
Sea itself are being transformed beyond recognition. While the benefits
of peace and development are clear, many are disturbed by the loss of
much of the natural beauty and ecological systems.
Management Tool (SMT)
At project inception,
the SMT was thought of as a generic tool that can be utilized in other
regions. The scenarios team worked under a different assumption,
that a non-generic Dead Sea Basin specific SMT would help determine the
realistic scenarios. A compromise was reached where both the SMT and the
Scenario Synthesis were combined in the sense that the product of the
two will be a number of realistic scenarios, which will be discussed
with the regional development authorities and communities and will be
incorporated in the project synthesis process. The loss in this
compromise is that the team is unable to produce a generic tool that can
be used in other areas of the world. The SMT is accordingly, an
organizational model that incorporates a human knowledge- base and a
logical framework. A scenario is defined by a set of indicators that
changes over time. However, not all combinations of indicators are
meaningful. There are some indicators that are positively or negatively
linked to each other. The practicability of a scenario management tool
is that it is able to organize such bundles of parameters (= indicators
of scenarios that change over time), and to translate assumptions about
certain developments into meaningful quantitative parameters. In its
simplest form, the outputs of the model are tables with numbers for all
driving forces for all scenario years. The SMT will only
describe the possible behavior of a selected set of future indicators
that can be logically deduced. Only when the SMT is integrated
Model, the behavior and sustainability of the Dead Sea as a whole
can be simulated. Examples of indicators the SMT will simulate
include the number of tourists visiting the Dead Sea Basin, Area of Land
administered by Palestinians, the Volume of Water from Jordan river
available to Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians, among others.
The SMT is in its advanced development
stages. The output of the SMT is tabular data describing the
behavior of each future indicator. The table below is an example
of a run of the SMT showing the impacts on the number of tourists
visiting Israeli Hostels and Hotels in the Dead Sea Basin of two
Scenarios; namely Scenario I "Business as Usual" and Scenario IV "A
Supply Managed Middle East".
Table 1. Example of an output of SMT
Number of Tourists visiting Dead Sea Basin (Israeli Hotels and
Hostels) until 2025
The Dead Sea Scenarios and the SMT will be
used at future FGM’s and during the synthesis stage in the so called
Integration FGMs (IFGMs). The Scenarios should be distributed to a wide
range of experts and lay people – scientists, policy makers, NGOs, and
local residents in order to create the kind of open feedback system used
to develop climate change scenarios. This is an ongoing process that
might continue after the conclusion of the project.