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Synchronicity - Shell Scenario

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24. Creating the Future

Jaworski, Joseph Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Freedom and destiny are solemnly promised to one another
and linked together in meaning.

—Martin Buber

The Shell system of scenario planning is acknowledged to be one of the best state-of-the-art strategic planning systems used today. It has served the Royal Dutch Shell Group of companies extremely well over the past twenty years. In 1970, Forbes had said that Shell was the weakest of the seven major oil companies, even calling Shell “the ugly sister” of the so-called seven sisters. Three years later, Shell discovered the power of targeting the mental models of its decision makers through scenario planning. By 1979, Shell and Exxon were seen as operating in a class by themselves, and by 1994, Forbes listed the Royal Dutch Shell Group of companies at the very top of their foreign Super Fifty—the largest companies outside the United States ranked by revenues, net income, assets, and market value.

When I arrived in London in 1990 to begin my work with the Shell Group, I had read everything I could find about its process of scenario planning. I thought I saw how the Shell scenario process fit right into the center of the quantum view of the universe that Bohm had described to me over a decade earlier. At that time, I also thought the Shell scenario process helped people to somehow sense and actualize new realities prior to their emerging, but I was mistaken. In fact, the process pointed to realities that were just manifesting in the world. Scenarios were being used in Shell to help their managers react almost instantly to new realities as they were emerging. This approach to scenarios is grounded in the deepest assumption that we human beings hold—that we cannot change things, so we must live our lives reacting to forces outside our control.

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