Towards a (Pragmatic) Science of Strategic Intervention: The Case of Scenario Planning

58 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2008

Date Written: September 12, 2004


Despite the widespread popularity of scenario planning techniques as a basis for intervening in the strategic management process, there have been surprisingly few attempts to rigorously evaluate the extent to which, under what circumstances and for what reasons, these procedures yield useful outcomes or otherwise. Rather, the extant literature is replete with case examples of apparent success stories. While such accounts are highly appealing to the advocates of scenario planning procedures, they are extremely weak from a scientific standpoint, conveying nothing of the limitations of these approaches, nor indeed the underlying mechanisms through which they exert their effects. One way of ascertaining the boundary conditions of these techniques, and illuminating the underlying mechanisms at work, is through the careful documentation and analysis of failure cases. Taking one such case as a point of departure, a theoretical framework is developed as a basis for guiding future investigations. The framework maps out systematically a range of multilevel factors (incorporating the inner and outer contexts of the organization, individual differences among members of the scenario team, including consultants/facilitators involved in the intervention process) that warrant detailed further study. Finally, a number of methodological suggestions are outlined entailing more in-depth, qualitative analyses of critical incidents in field settings, in conjunction with structural equation modeling and the use of experimental techniques in the field and laboratory.

Suggested Citation

Hodgkinson, Gerard P., Towards a (Pragmatic) Science of Strategic Intervention: The Case of Scenario Planning (September 12, 2004). Advanced Institute of Management Research Paper No. 012, Available at SSRN: or

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