Feature Article: Scenarios and Process: Emanation

Russ Volckmann

Russ Volckmann

In this series of articles I have been exploring the use of scenarios for leadership development somewhat abstractly. In the next few issues I hope to examine this approach with more attention to method and process. This article begins an outline of the process or approach that one would use with clients to develop such scenarios. In this series we will be examining scenarios, their development and implementation through four stages: emanation, creation, formation and action. Here is a discussion of the first of these.

Contracting requirements are as important for this process as any other. This would include clarifying the purpose of using scenarios, e.g., development of high potentials for executive leadership positions. It would include agreement on process and roles, some of which will be addressed below.

From a dialogue with Keith Bellamy, here is the first key step – emanation: The “scenarioist” gathers data from client to construct scenarios (possible partnering in doing this would be best).

The role of the scenarioist has to be, in the main, catalytic. It is very easy for the ultimate owner of the scenario to “abdicate” responsibility for the scenarios. Often this is done by either passing it down the line of the organization or allowing the consultant to develop the scenarios. This is often done to allow the sponsor “deniability” over the scenarios if they do not gain favor within the Enterprise. This is not, in my opinion, positive or Integral Leadership and it is essential that we get the leader/sponsor to be fully engaged in the process from the outset. So the role of the scenarioist has to be to assist the leader to gather the information on the understanding that he/she will be supported in its manipulation into scenarios that he/she can own.

One challenge in doing as Keith has suggested above may be how an integrally-informed approach can be used that will not come across as too academic (the death knoll of building relationships with clients in business). As with any developmental engagement it is necessary to meet the client where they are in terms of language, values, assumptions, aspirations, mental models, etc.

Something like the language of the Integral Leadership model that has been reported in the pages of this e-journal might be helpful. Scenarios need to contain the challenges of group purpose, the effective organization and management of leadership resources, inspired teamwork and business vitality in relation to stakeholders.

Furthermore, models of executive leadership offer additional helpful perspectives. For example, a scenario for executive programs would require development of task and cognitive complexity, engaging multiple roles upward, laterally and downward in the organization, as well as boundary spanning roles with stakeholders. The latter would include the capacity of the individual and collective leadership to shape and attune their work to a vision that acts as an attractor to the motivations of others in and outside of the organization. Such a vision can also be included in the scenario as a given. Step two in our process will deepen attention to what this and other assumptions are that individuals bring to their creative process in developing and translating awareness and possibilities.

How the elements of the scenario are represented in language clearly needs to reflect the culture and systems of the organization in which they are going to be used. The scenarios need to reflect the business realities and representation to variables essential to the business life of the organization. Only by having the perspective and guidance of someone who has a sufficiently high level perspective (an executive) can this be assured.

The scenario design would include elements that challenge an understanding of  these now familiar categories:

  • The culture of the organization and that of its business environment.
  • The structures, processes, technologies, geography and symbols critical to the organization, including mechanisms for interfacing with its business and regulatory environment.
  • The individual’s beliefs, assumptions, mental models and aspirations.
  • Individual action/behavior required to engage with the scenario and implementation of strategy in relation to all relevant stakeholders.

How these would be included will be addressed in the next stage of our process: creation.

> Russ Volckmann