Micro-scenario Planning

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A micro-scenario is a small fragment or description about the future that can range from the plausible to the counter-factual. Micro-scenarios can be generated and used in the course of diverse planning methods and activities. Formal scenario planning is used in foresight, futures studies, and strategy and originates in post-World War II military planning [1]. Some aspects and approaches to it are closer to micro-scenario planning, especially those that aim at 'disturbing the present' [2], while those that aim to close the gap between the present and a predicted future are furthest away. Micro-scenario planning is distinguished from formal scenarios by its fragmentary form and the emphasis on the diversity and multiplicity of such scenarios collected, as well as the reduced emphasis and reliance on experts.


Exaptive discovery and weak signal detection

The generation of micro-scenarios about the future can be used to increase scanning capacity in the present and respond to both crisis and opportunity. The origination of multiple micro-scenarios from diverse sources is key to all applications of the method. As an ongoing aspect of organisational functioning, this can be separated from daily business and activated especially in times of crisis (see also the creation of human sensor networks in MassSense). Micro-scenario planning aids in navigating complex spaces by expanding the space of possibility that has not yet been imagined. It can be used in combination with other methods such as trios or social network stimulation. Because of the diversity of micro-scenarios and their lack of finality, the method is better suited for exploring uncertainty than foresight methods that attempt to extrapolate into the future. It can also be conceptualised as a way of moving from anticipation (trying to predict the future) to anticipatory awareness (honing our receptiveness to a wider range of signals).

Abductive/pre-hypothesis research and formal scenario planning

Micro-scenario planning can be used for both abductive research and formal scenario planning or inductive research by moving between scales of abstraction and changing the level of granularity. By staying at the level of diverse, variable, fragmented, and rich micro-scenarios that can be generated, we retain the capacity for abductive discovery and research. By aggregating and abstracting those same micro-scenarios, they can be fed or used at the beginning of scenario planning processes that retain the capacity to return to earlier, more diverse stages if needed.

Mapping ideation patterns

This use is often part of a situational assessment by a population, such as the workforce of an organisation or the inhabitants of a community. By sourcing perspectives on the futures envisioned in the form of micro-scenarios, a map of the underlying ideas can be visualised, and the process of generating ideas stimulated. Those maps of ideas can then be fed into workshops where the variety of the ways people see things are made visible, both in terms of overall patterns and in terms of the specific micro-scenarios that generated those patterns.

Strategy design and peer-to-peer learning

The use of micro-scenario planning in strategy is related to its use in exaptive discovery since it is also based on the use of a large range of diverse fragments of possible futures. These possibilities can be tested for coherence and form the basis of probes in the complex domain, eventually being tested for stability and moving towards the ordered space. They are used in combination with continuous real-time monitoring. As part of this strategic/learning use, stories about how we might have done better can also be generated in addition to future-focused ones.

Prior knowledge

List of concepts, frameworks and necessary understanding to use the method (it is OK to say none). This includes any key principles that need emphasising in this context or during the application of the Method.

Preparation and requirements to use this method

Facilitation skills Required

Skills in the SenseMaker tool and analysis required. If doing workshop analysis, complex facilitation skills. General principles are set out in in the facilitation article.

  • Linked to Method property "COMPLEX FACILITATION SKILL": How much training and skill in complex facilitation does the Method require?


Creation of SenseMaker site to feed into workshop/s.

  • Linked to Method property "COST & RESOURCES": How resource-intensive is the Method in terms of materials and tools required, and thus costs?

Participant Onboarding

Doing this regularly can become part of day-to-day business doc capture data in realtime. Think about always giving participants feedback on collective results so that they feel engaged I whole loop of process.

  • Linked to the Method property "ENGAGEMENT GRADIENT": How challenging is engagement of participants into the Method likely to be?

Key elements and artefacts

May be blank


There are two types of ways to embed micro-scenario planning in organisations and networks and both involve using the distributed ethnographic tool known as SenseMaker. The first is to share a SenseMaker site with a new cohort, and the second is to pulse this out to an existing Genba network who are familiar with the tool but perhaps making use of it for other separate/ linked engagements.

Whichever outreach strategy you are choosing to make use of, the instructions will be similar if not the same.

Conceptualise your SenseMaker engagement for micro-scenario planning Refer to the SenseMaker training if you are new to this tool.

The prompting question should orientate people to sharing a story about the future. The overall framework design can be combined with situational assessment or “MassSense” capture.

Share the SenseMaker micro-scenario engagement with your cohort / established Genba network. Think about how to frame this piece and why it is important. The recommendation is to think through how to engage participants with the data that comes back alongside their own personal entries so that the engagement feedback loop is closed. If you’re asking people to share in a journal-type capture, this can help them to understand why they are doing this. For example, you might wish to use the results from the micro-scenario engagement to share back in a MassSense to the same group for interpretations of safe-to-fail intervention design etc.

Use the SenseMaker analyst platforms to look at clusters of scenarios, or use landscape maps to identify dominant and minority/ outlier views.

Use the SenseMaker analyst platforms to look at clusters of scenarios, or use landscape maps to identify dominant and minority/ outlier views. A strong single dominant pattern might indicate a singular scenario or modulator is extremely likely to happen OR it may equally indicate a deeper level of complacency.

2-3 overlapping but dominant patterns may mean dominant groups with very different perceptions of reality/ future states. If this is the case, use the patterns and maximise role diversity in workshopping to understand insight to action. Outlier views can be spots of innovation and/ or danger/ risk as seen outside of entrained patterns of thinking. Speak with these groups quickly to understand what might be getting missed in the bigger picture.

Option to workshop the results for collective sense-making and insight to action / safe-to-fail intervention design.

Do's and Don'ts

Simple bulleted list including common mistakes

Virtual running

Default is to state that it cannot be until we have developed and tested practice. If it can be run virtually then we describe it here.

It is acceptable to add a third column to the workflow if needed


Link to other articles on this wiki if they are relevant.


Specific articles can be referenced here

Blog posts

Link with commentary


Link to case articles here or third party material

Method card material

This material will be extracted for the method cards

Possible symbols or illustrations

Front page description

Micro-scenario planning aids many processes by expanding the space of possibility that is being considered.

Back of card summary

Micro-scenario planning aids in navigating complex spaces by expanding the space of possibility that leaders and decision-makers imagine. A micro-scenario is a fragment or description of the future that can range from plausible to counter-factual. Micro-scenarios are generated and explored in a diverse range of processes and activities, but the method always emphasises the diversity and multiplicity of micro-scenarios collected, rather than narrowing it - moving groups from anticipation (trying to predict the future) to anticipatory awareness (receptiveness to a wider range of signals).

How can it be used?

for diagnosis

for analysis/understanding

for intervention

Method Properties - Ratings

Represented by symbols - interpretation/voting scales are:

COST & RESOURCES: How resource-intensive is the Method in terms of materials and tools required, and thus costs?

  1. Requires only common office equipment (eg paper and pens)
  2. Requires simple facilitation materials (special hexies, printouts, whiteboards etc)
  3. Requires some inexpensive but specific tools and materials
  4. Requires moderate investment in tools or software to apply
  5. Requires significant investment in software or other specialist tools

COMPLEX FACILITATION SKILL: How much training and skill in complex facilitation does the Method require?

  1. No complex facilitation experience is required
  2. Some complex facilitation experience needed - practice in a safe space
  3. Should be mentored while developing complex facilitation skill
  4. Requires Mentoring until proven, familiarity with theory critical
  5. Advanced, requires deep knowledge of theory and experience

ENGAGEMENT GRADIENT: How challenging is engagement of participants into the Method likely to be?

  1. Ad hoc technique - can be used in multiple contexts with relative ease
  2. Requires time commitment but overall, engaging and not difficult to achieve
  3. Mild uncertainty or discomfort, may need work to keep people engaged
  4. Indirect/ambiguous method, requires engagement through sustained levels of uncertainty
  5. Challenging method – may incur resistance if people expect a more traditional approach

Additional resources

  1. Dave Snowden, Diversity & coherence, published Nov. 2020


  1. Amer, M. et al. “A review of scenario planning.” Futures 46 (2013): 23-40.
  2. Curry, Andrew. (2009). From Foresight to Insight: Using Scenarios Well. Journal of Futures Studies. 13.