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Scenario planning

The worst financial and economic crisis in the post-war era has taught us a valuable lesson: We can no longer trust forecasts. These days managers have to be prepared for rapid trend shifts and sudden, volatile developments. They can no longer draw up and reliably quantify detailed multi-year plans for strategic projects. It follows that company leaders must rediscover the courage to trust to their own entrepreneurial intuition.

Having said that, strategic planning also cries out for new strategic tools that can genuinely help chief executives deal better with uncertainty and complexity. After all, managers, employees and investors alike still need some form of guidance and orientation – all the more so when faced with a future of such utter uncertainty.

Planning for alternative scenarios is one way of responding to this challenge. Though by no means new, this approach has in the past been regarded as complicated, expensive and unreliable. And rightly so. Which is precisely why we teamed up with scientific experts to make scenario planning faster, more effective and more reliable.

In brief

We have developed our own more modern approach to scenario planning and put it through its paces it in a series of successful projects for major companies. The model is tailored to the needs of top management. It delivers outcomes that are rooted in solid business sense (and data) and takes account of the individual perspective and experience of each company. It also permits unambiguous statements to be made about which scenarios are probable and whether a particular trend is changing direction.

The Roland Berger approach to scenario planning differs in six main areas from traditional standard practice:

  1. Scenario network

    We draw on a rich network that includes universities and think tanks around the world, all of which themselves work with scenarios. It also embraces an extensive range of specially selected experts who together provide methodological and thematic knowledge covering a broad array of areas: specific technologies, special macroeconomic fields, environmental considerations and so on. Acting in concert with our in-house industry and country experts, this network is the ideal sounding board to test hypotheses.
  2. Three-level approach

    To be useful, pictures of what the future holds must cover three levels. Global scenarios (the macro-level) show decision-makers the big picture. Industry-specific and regional scenarios (the meso-level) reveal potential developments within a company's immediate sphere of activity. Finally, scenarios focused on individual organizations (the micro-level) identify specific impacts and possible courses of action.
  3. 360° stakeholder feedback

    The 360° stakeholder feedback tool gives us fast, comprehensive access to all the knowledge that the client company and its stakeholders have available. In this context, we talk to all the relevant employees in a company and to important contacts in the company's environment. This knowledge can then be channeled into scenario preparation on all three levels, from assessments of long-term megatrends to short-term expectations in key business areas.
  4. Milestones

    Think in terms of future scenarios and you need milestones – clear indicators of whether a scenario is still valid, and of when early warning signs begin to point in the direction of an alternative scenario. These indicators are tracked by a dedicated monitoring tool – the scenario cockpit – and regularly discussed with management.
  5. Process organization

    Our scenario planning strategy combines a structured approach that guarantees efficiency, sufficient freedom in defining the problems at hand, the necessary flexibility, and rapid access to data alongside the involvement of internal industry expertise. The process is interactive. Future scenarios emerge in close cooperation with the client – this guarantees that internal and external knowledge is translated into scenarios that are deeply rooted in real business practice.
  6. Scenario library

    The scenario library – compiled together with the scenario specialists at the Leipzig Graduate School of Management (HHL) – is a unique collection of future visions that we see as important. These scenarios are complemented by our industry and company databases, which comprise the most important data sources and models about technologies and megatrends, industries and companies that are available today.

The benefits of our new approach to scenario planning can be summed up very succinctly. The approach is effective because we have the right access to relevant input. It is efficient because we deploy modern tools and are able to manage the process strictly. It is creative because we paint coherent pictures of the future. And it lays the basis for well-founded decisions because it draws on the client company's full wealth of industry and functional knowledge.

Our experts

Christian Krys

Senior Expert

Düsseldorf, Germany
Phone: +49 211 4389-2917
E-mail: e-mail

Rainer Bizenberger


Berlin, Germany
Phone: +49 30 39927 - 3582
E-mail: e-mail

Bernd Brunke

Partner, Member of the GEC, Head of Financial Services

Berlin, Germany
Phone: +49 30 39927-3527
E-mail: e-mail

Kai Engelmann


Munich, Germany
Phone: +49 89 9230-8920
E-mail: e-mail

Stefan Schaible

Partner, Member of the GEC, and Deputy CEO Germany

Hamburg, Germany
Phone: +49 40 37631-4326
E-mail: e-mail

Burkhard Schwenker

CEO - Chief Executive Officer

Hamburg, Germany
Phone: +49 40 37631-4100
E-mail: e-mail

Martin Streichfuss

Partner and Head of Transportation

Düsseldorf, Germany
Phone: +49 211 4389-2193
E-mail: e-mail


Further reading

Scenario-based strategic planning

Book, 2013

The book published by Burkhard Schwenker and Torsten Wulf (HHL) describes scenario-based planning as an effective method for dealing with uncertainty, volatility and complexity …  >>

think: act STUDY "Scenario planning in emerging markets"

think: act STUDY, 2012

A new GLOBAL TOPICS brochure in the "8 Billion Opportunities" series looks at how a scenario planning tool works in emerging markets …  >>

Der Markt für Unterhaltungselektronik in Deutschland

Study (in German), 2012

Germany's market for consumer electronics has solid footing and even managed to grow during the crisis …  >>

Executive Quick Survey - Bewertung der Konjunkturlage im Herbst 2011

Survey (in German), 2011

Capital markets may be shrinking around the globe and the instability of the euro creating widespread insecurity, but the real economy in Germany is still growing strongly …  >>

Scenario update 9/2011

think: act CONTENT, 2011

In light of current turbulence, plus the chaos on the capital markets, many have asked us whether we still stand by our upbeat forecast and how we rate developments going forward …  >>

Future scenarios for the European airline industry

Study in cooperation with HHL-Leipzig Graduate School of Management, 2011

Our scenario study on the European airline industry focuses particularly on network carriers. We have developed four scenarios for the industry in the year 2015 based on two key uncertain developments and important industry trends …  >>

think: act CONTENT "Three times three"

think: act CONTENT, 2011

Roland Berger scenario update predicts three percent GDP growth for three years …  >>

Scenario planning

think: act CONTENT, 2010

Trend shifts have become the norm. Traditional strategic planning has reached its limits. The new edition of think: act CONTENT on "Scenario Planning" finds answers on how to build strategies in increasingly complex environments …  >>

think: act CONTENT "Scenario update 2010"

think: act CONTENT, 2010

Many signs indicate that the global economy's V-shaped recovery will continue, and that the outlook for Germany and Europe is bright …  >>

Scenario-based strategic planning

Book, 2013

The book published by Burkhard Schwenker and Torsten Wulf (HHL) describes scenario-based planning as an effective method for dealing with uncertainty, volatility and complexity …  >>


Your expert contact