Qu'est ce que le scenario planning ?

C'est une méthode d'apprentissage du futur, fondée sur l'identification de facteurs importants et incertains et sur la compréhension de la nature et l'impact de ces facteurs sur la performance future d’une entreprise.

C'est par un travail de groupe que la compréhension des facteurs importants à prendre en compte dans la planification émergera. L'objectif est de concevoir un petit nombre d'histoires (scénarios) contrastées ou divergentes en combinant les évolutions possibles des facteurs incertains ou à forte influence sur la performance.

Les histoires racontées et surtout le chemin parcouru pour arriver à une formulation efficace de ces histoires contribuent à l'objectif dual d'accroissement de la connaissance de l'environnement dans lequel évolue l'entreprise et d'élargissement de la perception par les participants du scénario planning d'évènements futurs possibles.

Roadmapping et scenario planning :

Dans le roadmapping, il s'agit d’élaborer un chemin permettant d'atteindre un futur hypothétique (où nous voulons aller). Le processus de roadmapping combine pour partie de la prévision et pour partie la recherche de consensus entre les parties prenantes sur les ressources à mettre en œuvre pour atteindre ce futur (compétences, R&D, infrastructures, etc.).

Les scénarios partent d'un autre constat : il est impossible de prévoir un futur unique. Le futur est pluriel, il y a de multiples futurs envisageables et nos actions peuvent dans une certaine mesure influencer la réalisation du futur.

Les scénarios décrivent les futurs envisageables afin que les parties prenantes comprennent les enjeux et les mécanismes mis en œuvre. Le scénario planning contribue à l'émergence de visions partagées et à la modification des cartes mentales des participants au processus de planification. Ceux ci développent par « apprentissage du futur », leur capacité d'adaptation et de réaction.

Dans la démarche de planification par scénarios, les participants doivent identifier les facteurs critiques qui affectent l'évolution du « système » étudié et les interactions entre ces facteurs, les séquences d'événements et de décisions qui feront qu'un futur se concrétise. La démarche de planification par scénarios permet de faire la liaison entre la réflexion et l'action en identifiant clairement ce qui est sous le contrôle des acteurs et ce qui échappe à ce contrôle mais qui doit néanmoins être pris en compte explicitement dans l'élaboration de plans contingents.






Scenario Planning is a technique for decision‑making under uncertainty. Scenarios are used to analyze the impact of uncertain events, often in conjunction with the related techniques of competitive analysis, market clearing analysis, underlying value and risk profile analysis, and risk‑return portfolio analysis[1].

Scenario analysis should be used when a firm faces major uncertainties about the future, and when the uncertainties significantly influence the firm's competitive position and profitability. Scenario analysis has been used, for example, in industries such as oil, mining, or space, but could also be applied in banking and other industries. Scenarios help avoid dangerous single‑point estimates, and force the strategist to make explicit assumptions about the future.


Figure 1 is a simplified scenario table, in which a range of possible values is displayed for each scenario variable. Note that the scenario variables are macroeconomic assumptions on the left, industry‑specific variables (such as price) in the middle, and competitor decisions or behavior on, the right. Although it is difficult to do, including competitor decisions among the scenario variables is important.

Figure I

Scenario Variables

How to create it

The first step is to generate a list of the key factors that affect the business. Structured interviews or brain‑storming meetings can be used to identify these factors.

Any discussion about key business issues can produce dozens of factors that all may initially be considered as important, and therefore need to be evaluated further. The matrix shown in Figure 2 is a useful tool for summarizing and sorting out the relevant factors of uncertainty that, in combination, define a scenario.

Figure 2

Vulnerability/ Opportunity Grid





Scenario Quadrant

Strategy Quadrant





Formulate scenarios

Formulate strategies




Importance to







Non strategy Quadrant

Fine-Tuning Quadrant





Make an

Delegate decision











Degree of Company Control


Each key factor should be placed in one of the four quadrants of the above matrix. The factors the firm can control (e.g., product line, investment) are placed on the right side of the grid. The factors the firm cannot control (e.g., market conditions, competitor moves) are placed on the left side of the grid. Factors are further differentiated according to their assumed importance to the firm's overall performance. This assumes that the analyst has at least an implicit model for classifying factors as to their importance for performance. If this is not the case, each factor is, in a first stage, assumed to be important and classified (in the upper half of the matrix) as a scenario or a strategy variable according to the degree of control that the firm can exercise on the variable.

Scenarios are then designed as self‑consistent combinations of values that each of the scenario quadrant variables can take (see Figure 1).

Defining scenarios is an iterative learning process. In this iterative process, new scenario variables can be added and some variables can be dropped when formal analysis shows either that they are dependent upon other variables or that they have little influence on decisions.

Sound advice on how to select uncertainties to identify scenario variables, and efficiently design a scenario as a consistent combination of independent variables, is given in Porter (1985) or Wack (1980 and 1984).

How Are Scenarios Used?

After defining the scenarios and one or several strategies, each strategy is evaluated in the context of each scenario. Ideally an analytical model of the firm's financial performance should be used to evaluate each possible strategy under all scenarios. Such a model should explicitly include all the strategy and scenario variables. It is then possible to study how to respond to different views of the future (scenarios) with generic or specific strategies.

This quantitative approach can be very complex. Porter's approach is related but quite different and perhaps more simple: it does not require a formal model, only that the analyst:

·         Determine future industry structure under each scenario.

·         Develop the implication of the scenario for industry structural attractive ness.

·         Identify the implications of the scenario for the sources of competitive advantage.

How Many Scenarios Should Be Analyzed?

Clearly, more than one scenario needs to be analyzed; however, the analysis is complex and expensive (at least for the first scenarios). The purpose of multiple planning scenarios is to shed light on the range of futures associated with strategy formulation. Scenarios are not intended to cover all the possible outcomes, and it is sometimes useful to bracket those possible outcomes with "polar" scenarios, but they do not need to be equally likely to occur.

A good approach is to identify a small number (3‑5) of internally consistent scenarios to which people can relate and f or which very evocative labels can be coined, such as: high growth, price war, North‑South balance, or weakening OPEC.


Under budget or time constraints, it is natural to limit the number of scenarios and to concentrate on two very contrasting scenarios. Often these scenarios will be a best and worst case in order to assess the size of the risk (the spread) associated with a strategy. A good idea is to try to stay away from polar scenarios, because they lead naturally to difficult but not immediately productive discussions of the probabilities of the two scenarios.

The purpose of scenarios is to influence and improve strategy formulation. In many cases this entails reducing the harmful impact of possible outcomes (hedging or managing the downside risk) without losing too much of the upside potential created by uncertain opportunities.

Hedging is the most common risk‑reducing strategy, but it is not the only strategy available to companies facing key uncertainties. Porter (1985) considers several other generic strategies:

·         Bet on the most probable scenario.

·         Bet on the best scenario.

·         Preserve flexibility.

·         Influence (to bring about a desired scenario).


Wack, Pierre A. "Shell's Multiple Scenario Planning," World Business Weekly, April 7, 1984.

"Learning to Design Planning Scenarios: The Experience of Royal Dutch Shell." Working Paper, Harvard Business School, 1984.

Porter, Michael. Competitive Advantage New York: Free Press, 1985, chap. 13.

Annexe 1




The V/O grid is used in management discussions to identify the factors that the firm can control (e.g. product line, investment) and those that it cannot (market conditions, competitors moves)






The important uncontrollable factors are formed into scenarios, each representing a possible future. The important controllable factors are combined to describe either the current strategy or alternatives to it









Cash flow simulation shows expected strategy performance under each scenario

Cash flows, and hence business value, can be improved by:

·         Competitive analysis: market clearing and "irrational" competitor behavior

·         Competitive analysis: the profit pie

·         Contingency planning

·         Pricing moves and gaming






The net present value of cash flows yields a risk profile showing how business value varies from one scenario to another for a given strategy

The value of the business to stockholders, called underlying value, depends on both expected return and risk

The purpose of business strategy is to maximize underlying value





Underlying value is used to perform portfolio analysis, to assess which businesses are generating more value than their invested equity and which are generating less

Analysis technique


[1] See Appendix 1 for a brief overview of the links between these techniques.