• Dr. Timothy X. Merritt

Foresight Scenario Testing - Part 3

A quick visual representation of the Stress Test is possible by comparing PIRA’s six strategies to provide shelter to one million people every year against the four alternative futures described in the Global Governance Scenario in 2030 which yields the following analysis:


Figure3: Strategy | Scenario Matrix Analysis

Scenario Testing, Strategic Foresight, Futurism, Systems Thinking Examples
Scenario Stress Testing using Strategic Foresight

Strategy | Scenario Matrix Overview

A narrative providing a detailed explanation for the color-coded analysis of performance for each of PIRA’s Stress-Tested strategies follows: Reading from left-to-right and from the top down, the narratives will explain why each strategy performed well, marginally or poorly under each scenario.


Strategy 1: Increase Capacity

PIRA is a disaster relief organization designed to operate in the most remote and inaccessible locations. By design, it tends to perform best when operating in areas defined by local (or even nonexistent) governance. Disaster relief is an intensive logistics effort that involves the transport of significant amounts of goods across international borders. In areas where global governance is high, fees, customs protocols, and other regulations will complicate and slow relief efforts. Therefore PIRA performs well in World 1 and World 3 due to the absence of regulation, it performs marginally in World 2 where the power of large firms is balanced against the power of global government, and it performs poorly in World 4 where the attempts of bureaucrats to micro-manage logistical flows during a crisis hamper relief efforts.


Strategy 2: Adapting Operations

PIRA performs marginally in Worlds 1, 2, and 4 but for different reasons. In World 1, PIRA would attempt to use the existing infrastructure offered by large firms to leverage its own resources (i.e., using a Shell Oil airstrip to bring in relief equipment). The World 2 scenario assumes that both business and governmental resources are available for use (i.e., setting up a command post in a Wal-Mart parking lot during a hurricane in a developed country). World 4 is actually encountered quite frequently by PIRA, where they participate (along with dozens of other relief agencies) with global organizations such as the United Nations High Council for Refugees (UNHCR) in coordinated disaster relief efforts. It is in World 3, however, that PIRA excels. Each emergency shelter kit is designed to be incredibly portable, coupled with an elite team of RTs capable of reaching areas that are inaccessible to other relief organizations.


Strategy 3: Sustained Fundraising

The PIRA funding model requires an affluent donor base with a willingness to donate to disaster relief efforts in areas that struggle economically. This funding model exactly describes the conditions found in World 1. The worst performance in a scenario is found in World 3 where, due to a disintegration of the World Order, it would be unlikely to assume a donor base could be established between competing local governments and regions. In both World 2 and World 4 the existence of either large firms or global government structures leads to marginal performance based on the reasonable assumption that the existence of affluence would allow for some sustainable donor base to be built.


Strategy 4: Growing Volunteers

The two primary sources of PIRA volunteers are the RTs and affiliated church members. RTs require specialized training, while church members primarily require information. In both instances, the more diverse and geographically separated the volunteers are, the better they perform. Volunteers from multiple nations speak multiple languages, and they are familiar with local geography, customs, and resources; all essential components of relief in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Therefore, PIRA performs in the World 3 scenario, marginally in both Worlds 1 and 2, and performs poorly in World 4 due to the cumbersome nature of regulatory oversight including certification and standardization of volunteer activities.


Strategy 5: Media Awareness

Tied closely to both fundraising and growing volunteers, the PIRA strategy to raise media awareness involves using an array of technological techniques to tell moving stories of human triumph over tragedy to the largest possible audiences. Therefore in Worlds 2 and 4 that both involve significant technological innovation and accessibility, this PIRA strategy works well. Interestingly, even in Worlds 1 and 3, where technological advances are not expected to progress rapidly, the existing technological infrastructure of the internet, cell phones, and broadcast media are already effective at communicating compelling stories. Therefore, in these worlds, PIRA strategies continue to be marginally effective with no poor performance found in any scenario.


Strategy 6: Developing Partnerships

Developing partnerships may be the key strategy for PIRA to reach its goal of providing shelter to one million people each year, regardless of the future nature of global governance. Neither economic nor geographic boundaries constrain partnerships. In Worlds 1, 2, and 3, there will be some mix of local or global government, small or large firms that will enable PIRA to perform well in any circumstance. The key is to make developing relationships a top priority. The only instance where PIRA might perform marginally is in World 4, where processes might take precedence over people. But even in a world governed by top-down control, an agile and adaptive organization like PIRA should be able to build the relationships necessary to get work done.


Stress-Test Next Step

The next step in the PIRA strategy Stress-Test is to submit these findings to a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis. The SWOT analysis “is probably the most common tool used in strategic thinking and planning” (Chermack, 2011, p. 107). It is inherently valuable because of its ability to synthesize a great deal of the insights gained from the Strategy / Scenario Matrix Analysis.


Continue to Foresight Scenario Testing - Part 4

Go back to Foresight Scenario Testing - Part 2

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