Best Case & Worst Case Scenario Planning

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Best Case/Worst Case is a planning model. As a DesignTeam assignment, it can be designed as a Scan process or a Focus process. As a Scan process, it’s typically a variation or extension of the Scenario exercise: one team (or more) is assigned to write a “Best Case” scenario of internal/external conditions and events; another is assigned to write a “Worst Case” Scenario; and another (optionally) to write a “Probable Case” Scenario. As a Focus assignment, this is an exercise in contingency planning; the same scenario information (internal/external conditions) may be generated, yet here the emphasis is on designing the (proposed) optimal group response(s) to each contingency.
This is a modeling exercise. As always, the parameters chosen for each model have to be useful. Participants should be directed to avoid “Best Case” and “Worst Case” predictions that are so extreme that they are meaningless. For example, thermonuclear war may indeed be a worst case scenario, but it “changes the game” so radically that few organizations would find it worth their time to invent a meaningful response.
To challenge a group to go deeper with scenario development or contingency planning, bringing additional rigor to their work. To ensure balance and completeness if a group’s natural inclination is to avoid looking at the full range of possibilities. To build the coherence and positiveness that comes from knowing you have options across the range of possible future conditions.
Can be adapted to fit nearly any point in the design process, and short or long modules (e.g., 45 minutes – 2 hours).
Strengths — Low risk. Encourages analytical thinking. Provides a sense of completeness — having looked at both the best and the worst that might happen, and knowing they have reasonable responses to a range of contingencies, a group feels more prepared — and sometimes more willing to accept a path that at first seemed risky. Weaknesses — Low strangeness factor. Many groups will have done exercises like this in the past; it may not stretch the group’s thinking as much as desired. Encourages analytical thinking. ;) Specifications for Success — 1. Watch to make sure participants don’t fall into lazy thinking, reiterating well-worn assessments from the past. Encourage them to broaden the range of scenario considerations if necessary. 2. This is a “safe” module. Don’t make all your modules this safe, or you may find the results boring.

See other Scenarios such as how to Write a Scenario Assignment.