Running head: VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 1
Copyrighted ©2013 Rochell McWhorter and Susan Lynham
An Initial Conceptualizatio...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 2
Abstract
The Problem
Recent disruptive events introduced high volatility and uncertainty into ...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 3
Keywords: Virtual Scenario Planning, Virtual HRD, Leadership Development, Virtual
Teams, Techn...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 4
have also suggested that travel required to participate in scenario planning activities is har...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 5
ability of organizations to respond to change (See also Chermack, 2004; Chermack & Lynham,
200...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 6
scenario planning through his Scenario Development Framework (SDF) giving us an idea of
what t...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 7
flowing from the process” (p. 229). and the effects of the scenario
processes on the organizat...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 8
Developing Human Resources introducing Virtual HRD to the field (McWhorter & Bennett,
2010), o...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 9
Virtual technologies. Modern technologies have evolved to the point where workers are
not only...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 10
Mancuso, 2013). In addition, many of the platforms available are highly integrated, scalable ...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 11
Workman (2005) also discussed virtual team culture and compared proximal (F2F) teams
with vir...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 12
environments whether it be on a traditional computer or mobile device, developmental
efforts ...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 13
backchannel (text conversation; Educause, 2011) in text window a stark contrast to side chat
...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 14
subject matter experts (SMEs) and senior-level decision makers therefore limiting the input f...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 15
events. Overall, Raford (2011) found that utilizing online technology for scenario planning w...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 16
Table 2: Van der Merwe’s (2008) Seven Phases of a Typical Scenario Planning Project
Augmented...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 17
5 Constructing a
scenario artifact
Provides a written record
of the activities; the
artifact ...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 18
The informing literatures considered above help inform initial conceptualization of VSP
in a ...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 19
Informing Constructs and Sub-constructs
The previously presented informing literatures—on sce...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 20
Development
(TD)
 TD should improve performance; therefore, VSP should
also have improving l...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 21
Figure 2: An Initial and Exploratory Conceptualization of VSP as Interacting System of
Inputs...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 22
The preceding presentations, analysis and synthesis of the foundational bodies of
knowledge i...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 23
Implications for Related Theory
A few discernable theory-related implications might be conclu...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 24
organization/user a better chance of getting-the-whole-system-in the room, and thus optimizin...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 25
where HRD students engage in experiential learning within technology-related organizations or...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 26
References
Ardichvili, A. (2008).Learning and knowledge sharing in virtual communities of pra...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 27
Burt, G., & Chermack, T. (2008). Learning with scenarios: Summary and critical issues.
Advanc...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 28
Delello, J. A., & McWhorter, R. R. (2014). New visual social media for the higher education
c...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 29
Johnston, M., Gilmore, A., & Carson, D. (2008) Dealing with environmental uncertainty: The
va...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 30
McWhorter, R. R., & Bennett, E. E. (Eds.). (2010). Exploring the construct of Virtual Human
R...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 31
McWhorter, R. R., Roberts, P. B. &, Mancuso, D. (2013). Exploring professional online
confere...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 32
http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTARD/Resources/Scenario_Planning_DP_29_final.
pdf
Ramire...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 33
Short, D. (2013). Designing a 3D Virtual HRD environment from a scholar-practitioner
perspect...
VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 34
Wilkinson, A., & Kupers, R. (2013). Living in the futures: How scenario planning changed
corp...
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An Initial Conceptualization of Virtual Scenario Planning

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Recent disruptive events introduced high volatility and uncertainty into the contemporary organizational environment whereby well-established organizations found scenario planning useful to craft strategy. However, because scenario planning is typically a very costly endeavor, it is less accessible to new startups, small businesses, non-profits, and large-scale organizations that could greatly benefit. We propose an initial conceptual model whereby sophisticated technologies that typically enable virtual events be utilized to facilitate virtual scenario planning activities for real-time participation from geographically disbursed locations reducing expenses and providing access to one of HRD’s strategic learning tools. This article will be of particular interest to those involved in formulating organizational strategy including those where costs of face-to-face scenario planning and other forms of strategic initiatives are either time or cost prohibitive. Note: This is the last author’s copy of this paper. The final definitive copy of this work is available online at: http://adh.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/04/30/1523422314532096.abstract?rss=1 and will soon be available in print in the Advances in Developing Human Resources Journal, 2014.

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Transcript of "An Initial Conceptualization of Virtual Scenario Planning"

  1. 1. Running head: VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 1 Copyrighted ©2013 Rochell McWhorter and Susan Lynham An Initial Conceptualization of Virtual Scenario Planning Rochell R. McWhorter The University of Texas at Tyler Susan A. Lynham Colorado State University Note: This is the last author’s copy of this paper. The final definitive copy of this work is available online at: http://adh.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/04/30/1523422314532096.abstract?rss=1 and will soon be available in print in the Advances in Developing Human Resources Journal, 2014.
  2. 2. VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 2 Abstract The Problem Recent disruptive events introduced high volatility and uncertainty into the contemporary organizational environment whereby well-established organizations found scenario planning useful to craft strategy. However, because scenario planning is typically a very costly endeavor, it is less accessible to new startups, small businesses, non-profits, and large-scale organizations that could greatly benefit. The Solution We propose an initial conceptual model whereby sophisticated technologies that typically enable virtual events be utilized to facilitate virtual scenario planning activities for real-time participation from geographically disbursed locations reducing expenses and providing access to one of HRD’s strategic learning tools. We posit that HRD professionals be involved in planning and implementation through the scope of technology development within the context of Virtual HRD. The Stakeholders This article provides researchers and scholar-practitioners with a conceptualization of current thinking around the notion of utilizing technology to create an online environment conducive for scenario planning. This article will be of particular interest to those involved in formulating organizational strategy including those where costs of face-to-face scenario planning and other forms of strategic initiatives are either time or cost prohibitive.
  3. 3. VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 3 Keywords: Virtual Scenario Planning, Virtual HRD, Leadership Development, Virtual Teams, Technology Development An Initial Conceptualization of Virtual Scenario Planning Scenario Planning is well acknowledged in HRD literature and has been presented as “HRD’s strategic learning tool” (Chermack & Swanson, 2008, p. 129) for assisting organizations in planning for times of uncertainty. Scenario planning has been shown to facilitate a number of valuable processes and outcomes including: learning collectively and institutionally, the development of an increased capacity for leadership and strategy development and their implementation, improved organizational performance, managing disagreement as an asset, increased cross-functional communication, and increased clarity of strategic options (See: Chermack, 2011; Schwartz, 1991; McWhorter, Lynham & Porter, 2008; Van der Heijden, 2005; Van der Merwe, 2008). In the past decade, scenario planning has realized a “renaissance” (Wilkins & Kupers, 2013, p. 120) and a “sustained surge” (Rigby & Bilodeau, 2007, p. 21) following the attacks of September 11, 2001, the global credit crisis, and recent recession; all of which brought high volatility and uncertainty into the organizational environment (Bradfield, Wright, Burt, Cairns, & Niles, 2009; Ilbury & Sunter, 2011; Ramirez, Selsky & van der Heijden, 2008; Tuna, 2009; Van der Heijden, 2005; Wilkinson & Kupers, 2013). A number of organizations such as IBM, Shell Oil, Sprint and Google have utilized scenario planning as part of their strategic planning (McWhorter & Lynham, 2011). While very useful, scenario planning efforts of forward-thinking organizations are quite costly in terms of time and travel to bring together many stakeholders in a single location over multiple days (Johnston, Gilmore & Carson, 2008; McWhorter, Lynham & Porter, 2008). Some
  4. 4. VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 4 have also suggested that travel required to participate in scenario planning activities is harmful to the environment (Fazarro & McWhorter, 2011). The purpose of this article is to begin to lay the groundwork for an initial conceptualization of the phenomenon of Virtual Scenario Planning (VSP)—one that utilizes modern information communication technologies (ICTs) to connect key stakeholders (such as scenario planning experts, facilitators, and selected participants) to conduct scenario planning. To fulfill this purpose, we present (1) an overview of conceptually informing literatures foundational to VSP, (2) findings and how they inform initial conceptualization of a model of VSP, and 3) concluding implications for related theory, research and practice. Conceptually Informing Literatures Foundational to Virtual Scenario Planning (VSP) According to Lynham (2002), conceptual development is concerned with the formulation of initial ideas within a relevant world context such that it “depicts current, best, most informed understanding and explanation of the phenomenon, issue, or problem…[developing] an informed conceptual framework that provides an initial understanding and explanation of the nature and dynamics of the issue, problem, or phenomenon” (p. 231). This article inaugurates the initial conceptualization of Virtual Scenario Planning (VSP) in HRD by first examining three informing literatures foundational to the building of such a conceptual framework, namely, Scenario Planning (SP), Virtual HRD (VHRD), and Virtual Scenario Planning (VSP). An overview of each follows. Scenario Planning (SP) Although the history of scenario planning spans decades, the first formal theory of scenario planning was synthesized by Chermack (2003a) who identified key outcomes of this process as being scenario stories, mental models, learning, improved decision-making, and the
  5. 5. VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 5 ability of organizations to respond to change (See also Chermack, 2004; Chermack & Lynham, 2002; Lynham, Provo & Ruona, 1998; Ringland, 2006; Schwartz, 1991; Senge, 1990; Van der Merwe, 2005; Wack, 1985, as cited in Chermack, 2003b). Scenario Planning has been defined as “a structured process of thinking about and anticipating the unknown future…to examine possible future developments that could impact individuals, organizations, or societies and to find directions for decisions that would be… most beneficial in any future environment” (Rajalanti, van der Hiejden, Janssen & Pehu, 2006, p. ix). This broad contextual basis suggests that scenario planning is useful at the individual (Schoemaker, 1995), small business (Foster, 1993), city-wide (Docherty & McKiernan, 2008), regional (Center for Houston’s Future: The Region’s Think Tank, 2012), corporate (Shell.com, 2013), large non-profit (Means, Patrick, Ospina & West, 2005), and even national (United Nations Environment Programme, 2012), continental (UNAIDS, 2005) and (perhaps in near future) global levels. Indeed, the literature supports each of these levels of contextual utility of scenario planning—also underscored by a notable scenario planner: Scenarios are interesting because they don’t promise prediction, they actually encourage us to keep an open mind about the fact that we live in an uncertain world. And, that uncertainty is both empowering, not just frightening. And so the role of scenarios…is to help lead us individually and collectively…and organizations and societies [to] keep an open mind…and prepare more options about what might happen. (Angela Wilkinson in The Smith School, 2011, [video], 1:02) A number of methodologies have emerged for conducting a scenario planning project (Illbury & Sunter, 2011; Ringland, 2006; Van der Merwe, 2008; Wilkinson & Kupers, 2013). A globally experienced scenario planner, Louis Van der Merwe (2008), offered insight into
  6. 6. VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 6 scenario planning through his Scenario Development Framework (SDF) giving us an idea of what typical face-to-face (F2F) scenario planning looks like. He noted that a scenario-based planning project normally develops over a six to nine month period. Seven common phases of a typical project are depicted in Table 1. Table 1: Van der Merwe’s (2008) Seven Phases of a Typical Scenario Planning Project Phase Activity Description Resources/Method 1 Interviews with decision makers, and informal leaders in the organization (Internal Environment) Conduct, Document, Analyze and Provide Feedback on 10-25 face-to-face (F2F) interviews. In Person or Phone Interviews, recorded and transcribed utilizing a computer. 2 Gathering Feedback, Sorting and Structuring of Dynamics (External Environment) Gather information specific to the environment in which the organization operates, as well the social, technological, economic, environmental forces and critical trends. Accessing Industry News outlets, eNewsletters, Electronic Databases, Web-based Industry Magazines. 3,4 Rigorous Analysis and Building Capacity for Strategic Conversation Workshops held to consolidate and integrate a set of 2-4 scenarios held 6-8 weeks apart to allow for deep reflection and analysis. Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis involving the use of tools such as systems loops and links, story maps, ladder of inference and a conversation quality checklist. The integration of scenarios is normally done as a series of 3-4 F2F workshops of two days each. 5 Constructing a scenario artifact Provides a written record of the activities; the artifact should “use a wide variation of tables and illustrations to reflect both explicit and implicit aspects of storylines” (p. 227). Creation of a scenario workbook, scenario web site, or utilizing other media depicting a set of vividly titled scenario stories as “oral history of the future” (p. 229). 6 Sustaining strategic conversations Holding a series of forums where leadership comes together to discuss the dynamics that may affect the organization. Series of forum-styled meetings that capture the strategic conversations. 7 Documenting noticeable results Because scenario-based strategy “builds assets in the organization that could be called intangible…it is essential to measure...and document the results Utilize instruments that document co-created or surfaced (tacit) knowledge; also, measure quality of scenario conversations
  7. 7. VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 7 flowing from the process” (p. 229). and the effects of the scenario processes on the organization Van der Merwe’s (2008) framework is further useful because it offered eight strategic uses for scenario planning. These were given as: (1) decision scenarios (testing for robustness), (2) normative scenarios (pushing a community toward a specific purpose), (3) community dialogue (engaging a community), (4) policy alignment (enabling various ministries for aligning policies), (5) organization alignment and engagement (providing an umbrella focus for strategic conversation and alignment), (6) environmental scanning (enabling organization to learn about/take positions on specific assumptions their strategy is based on), (7) scenario thinking (for embedding in all decision making/choices), and (8) leadership coaching (for a personal inquiry) (p. 225). Burt and Chermack (2008) remarked that “scenario planning is an effective approach to bring managers together to discuss their concerns” (p. 286). Further, Wilkinson and Kupers (2013) said scenarios “create a safe place for dialogue and for acknowledging uncertainty— allowing an organization to see realities that would have otherwise be overlooked” (p. 121). As stated, scenario planning is not done in isolation—it is a social activity involving multiple stakeholders. Historically carried out through F2F interactions, scenario planning is a highly interactive endeavor that “builds social capital within and beyond the organization…aid[s] in navigating complexity and conflict [and] managing disagreement” (Wilkinson & Kupers, 2013, p. 127). Virtual HRD Virtual HRD is a relatively new concept evolving in direct relation to increased availability of sophisticated technologies for increasing human learning and performance (McWhorter, 2010; Yoon & Lim, 2010). As presented in the 12(6) issue of Advances in
  8. 8. VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 8 Developing Human Resources introducing Virtual HRD to the field (McWhorter & Bennett, 2010), one definition of Virtual HRD is: a “media-rich and culturally relevant web environment that strategically improves expertise, performance, innovation, and community-building through formal and informal learning” (Bennett, 2009, p. 364). Further literatures relevant to Virtual HRD and informative for this exploratory conceptualization include Technology Development, Virtual Technologies, and Virtual Teams. Each is briefly considered next. Technology Development. While Virtual HRD is primarily concerned with the environment created from the joining of people and technology, the concept of Technology Development is operational and an area of expertise for HRD professionals (Bennett & McWhorter, 2014). Bennett (2010) advocated for the inclusion of Technology Development as a fourth pillar of HRD alongside the existing pillars of: Organization Development, Career Development and Training and Development. According to Bennett and McWhorter (2014), Technology Development (TD) can be viewed in two ways (or as having two facets): (1) a tool-level focus providing support for HRD interventions in practice; and, (2) as strategically implemented technology requiring the informed application of HRD processes, theories, and models. Thus, traditional HRD processes and techniques lend support for TD with both of aforementioned facets appearing relevant for initial conceptualization of VSP. For instance, the tool-level focus is crucial as we examine what technology tools might be useful to enable VSP at the various stages presented in Table 1. Also, traditional HRD processes and techniques that might be suitable or even critical for the success of a VSP project ought to be determined. The next sub-section of literatures considered relevant to Virtual HRD and informative to this exploratory conceptualization of VSP is that of virtual technologies.
  9. 9. VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 9 Virtual technologies. Modern technologies have evolved to the point where workers are not only connecting to and through technology, but now they have the capability to connect within the technology synchronously (in real-time) in an environment for collaborating with others (Kapp & O’Driscoll, 2010; McWhorter, 2010). With the advent of sophisticated workplace platforms, virtual collaboration of both small and large scale are becoming commonplace in many organizations (Ausburn & Ausburn, 2014; Bennett, 2009, 2010; Bennett & McWhorter, 2014; Fagan, 2014; Fazarro & McWhorter, 2011; Germain & McGuire, 2014; McWhorter, 2010, 2014; McWhorter, Roberts & Mancuso, 2013; Raisor & McWhorter, 2014). Consider a worker’s choices for collaboration with stakeholders such as the modern telephone (cellular or voice-over internet protocol—VOIP), email, instant or text messaging (Bennett, 2014a; Thomas, 2014), video conference (i.e. Skype.com or Zoom.us), webinar (i.e. GoToMeeting.com, WebEx.com, or AdobeConnect.com), virtual world (Ausburn & Ausburn, 2014; Fagan, 2014; Mancuso, Chlup & McWhorter, 2010; McWhorter & Lindhjem, 2013), and social media (Delello & McWhorter, 2014). These choices illustrate but a few virtual technologies that utilize a traditional desktop computer or a myriad of mobile alternatives such as smartphones, mini-tablets or laptops through bring your own device (BYOD) initiatives in the workplace (Gruman, 2012; Marks, 2013). The ubiquitous nature of workplace technologies allow us to consider collaboration not tied to a specific location (Ardichvili, 2008; Bell, 2011; Bennett & Bierema, 2010; Chapman & Stone, 2010; Fagan, 2014; Thomas, 2014), and affords participation in VSP activities anytime, anywhere. Such technologies are also beneficial because they typically allow for easy archival of documents and meetings through video playback accessible for on-demand and in the cloud for a look-back during future meetings (Fazarro & McWhorter, 2011; McWhorter, Roberts,
  10. 10. VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 10 Mancuso, 2013). In addition, many of the platforms available are highly integrated, scalable and user-friendly and designed to promote collaboration and the sharing of ideas (Sreedhar, 2014). When compared to virtual collaboration, traditional F2F meetings are much more costly in time and consume many environmental and financial resources, so ‘greening’ scenario planning might likely also be a preferred choice (Fazarro & McWhorter, 2011; Rogers, 2011). Another advantage of using virtual technologies for collaboration beyond convenience and cost savings is that of global participation. It is safe to speculate that utilization of contemporary digital platforms allow for increased participation by additional key stakeholders (including expert scenario planners) as virtual attendees are no longer confined to a geographical location. However, participants are cautioned to remove distractions such as daily tasks and routines while engaging in virtual activities such as VSP (Fazarro & McWhorter, 2011). Virtual teams. In 2010, McWhorter pointed to virtual teams as a place to look for Virtual HRD describing them as being “composed of workers connecting remotely to carry out an objective or purpose” (p. 626) and expounded on the earlier work of Dewey and Carter (2003) who described a case of virtual communication with a global virtual team who planned the Future Search Pre-Conference for the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) leadership in 2001. Using only email (asynchronous communication) and teleconferencing (utilizing telephone conferencing), the team planned the Pre-Conference in its entirety. They found that as a virtual planning team, there were four emergent themes from their case that may be useful for others considering virtual teams: “(a) the importance of energizing [a] highly effective leadership; (b) the presence of intrinsic rewards that motivated team members; (c) the necessity of a trustful environment for collaboration; and (d) creation of specific ‘enabling’ virtual communication techniques and protocols” (p. 250).
  11. 11. VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 11 Workman (2005) also discussed virtual team culture and compared proximal (F2F) teams with virtual teams. He found that virtual teams more tightly controlled performed better than more loosely controlled virtual teams. Also, he commented that “Explicit virtual team management apparently served to help regulate the forming, storming, norming, and performing type of group adjustments (Tuckman & Jensen, 1977) typically experienced by teams by serving to establish expectations and guidelines for group objectives quickly” (p. 454). These findings are helpful and informative when considering the formation of virtual teams for VSP. Bennett and Bierema (2010) noted that trust, incenting, and monitoring are important factors when considering work with virtual teams. They commented that trust is “potentially more difficult to establish than in face-to-face environments” (p. 641) and “traditional beliefs about incenting and monitoring work may not hold true in virtual teams” (p. 641). While their findings lend caution to those considering forming virtual teams for the purpose of scenario planning, their and others’ findings—some of which are highlighted above—suggest it reasonable to consider that a number of the steps in Van der Merwe’s Seven Phases of a Typical Scenario Planning Project (see Table 1) can be accomplished through virtual teaming methodologies (See Wild, Griggs & Li, 2005). Virtual Scenario Planning (VSP) Sophisticated virtual and social media technologies have been posited as plausible technologies for scenario planning methodology (McWhorter & Lynham, 2011). McWhorter (2011) remarked that VSP was possible and noted that two primary streams of inquiry, namely, Scenario Planning and Virtual HRD were: …moving closer to one another as sophisticated technologies are enabling the phenomenon of VHRD in the workplace…as we connect to one another within
  12. 12. VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 12 environments whether it be on a traditional computer or mobile device, developmental efforts for virtual work teams and processes such as virtual training and development are already being realized [whereby] virtual scenario planning (utilizing synchronous technologies such as videoconferencing and virtual worlds for scenario planning) is a reasonable next step to link geographically dispersed stakeholders. (p. 114) McWhorter (2011) indicated that the technology existed for such a strategic endeavor as VSP, and would be expected to be increasingly available to such end in the future. Additionally, a search for examples of VSP-related projects revealed two instances of scenario planning that primarily utilized modern technologies as their source of methodology. Each instance is considered next. In 2007, a scenario planner documented the first known case of VSP (Cascio, 2007). He integrated various technologies for stakeholders in the U.S., Europe and New Zealand for the purpose of real-time scenario planning. For example, he utilized voice through his digital call system, email for private messages, shared documents through Google Docs, utilized Google Spreadsheets for quick lists and spreadsheet, and utilized the text chat channel for collaboration and questions. If participants had a comment they would type the word HAND into the chat window thus requesting to speak on audio. Speaker’s names were typed in bold type by one of the moderators so participants would know who was speaking. The scenario planner remarked that “everything else was…more or less parallel to a live event approach” (para. 9). The planner noted that the primary advantage over a live event was that the text window became the most novel part of their online technology, and that the text chat/backchat engaged the participants— becoming an analytic to measure involvement. Additionally, he viewed the backchat or
  13. 13. VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 13 backchannel (text conversation; Educause, 2011) in text window a stark contrast to side chat (audio conversation) in live events that is typically highly discouraged. Cascio (2007) concluded that he would use the process again and considered it a valuable tool, but as an augmentation, not a replacement for F2F scenario planning workshops and recommended a mix of hybrid meetings such as the first meeting online for informing key stakeholders, then the second F2F to enhance social bonding/networking. Then, hold follow-up meeting(s) virtually “as the participants now have a good working relationship” (para. 13). He remarked: “one thing is absolutely certain: it is entirely possible to run a futures event using distributed technology and still retain participant interest—and generate useful, novel content, as well” (para. 1). A second instance of VSP was located by the authors. Raford (2011) conducted extensive research on web-based participatory approaches utilizing Web 2.0 and social media technologies to crowdsource (asking the crowd on the Internet for innovative ideas; See also: Boudreau, & Lakhani, 2013) to enhance urban scenario planning projects like roads and infrastructure often projected 50 years into the future. He conducted focused research into qualitative scenario planning and noted the inclusion of many stakeholders was ideal when contemplating making decisions for decades into the future for a geographical region. In addition, Raford’s (2011) work is important into conceptualizing VSP because he documented a number of the limitations of traditional face-to-face scenario planning methodology: (1) traditional scenario planning is labor-intensive including significant time investment gathering data, conducting background interviews, group workshops and numerous F2F discussions, (2) the number of key stakeholders that participate and benefit from the process is limited due to time and financial constraints, and, (3) traditional participants are typically
  14. 14. VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 14 subject matter experts (SMEs) and senior-level decision makers therefore limiting the input from a variety of perspectives and information sources. Through a mixed-methods multiple case study approach, Raford (2011) examined the usefulness of technology for augmenting traditional scenario planning methodologies for urban planning. The first case “Futurescaper” (See Raford, 2010, p. 82) employed Raford’s original design and programming for an online platform to store reactions from individuals at various locales for generation of drivers and trends and clustering them in high-level themes for visualization. His second case, “SenseMaker Scenarios” (p. 83) followed up on themes found in the first case and found to be useful for gathering large sets of participant contributions with potential for generation of scenarios. Another case, “Foresight Engine” (p. 84), utilized Web 2.0 tools in a gaming platform to gather approximately 5,000 opinions from 81 countries on the project website (see pp. 84-85). Raford (2011) concluded that “open-ended participation is a strong example of leveraging stakeholder participation online” (p. 85). A third utilized social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs), and emails for promoting the project and employed 25 in- depth video interviews over Skype with “thinkers in the field” (p. 86) that were later posted to YouTube garnering in excess of 17,000 views. We can compare these cases to Van der Merwe’s (2008) Step 2 described in Table 1. The findings from the initial study indicated participants were involved at a greater number and from more diverse locations and disciplines as compared to typical F2F scenario planning. However, overall findings revealed that although there were more participants, fewer participants were heavily engaged in the process. The data revealed that “less than 20% of the total users (48 of 237) contributed over 70% of the content” (p. 178) with a similar pattern seen in the second case. Therefore, one challenge will be the engagement of participants in virtual
  15. 15. VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 15 events. Overall, Raford (2011) found that utilizing online technology for scenario planning was advantageous specifically for time reduction in collecting critical information. Also, online tools were seen as helpful to “automate or distribute basic analytical tasks amongst many users, allowing for more complex analysis of their interaction in a shorter period of time” (Raford, 2011, p. 178). Also, the role of visuals and multimedia had a positive effect on the online participatory scenario planning project by increasing interest in the subject and the enjoyment of the experience for the participants. Overall, the conclusion was that technology-enabled methodologies held promise for scenario planning due to their speed, efficiency, and “distributed, crowd-sourced analysis” (Raford, 2011, p. 197). The conceptual nature of VSP as evidence of a TD initiative is further explored for its potential to utilize the “capacity of an organization to promote and leverage organizational learning” (Bennett & McWhorter, 2014, p. 18) through the integrated use of sophisticated technologies that bring together stakeholders in real-time across multiple modalities for events in a scenario planning process. A number of modern technologies hold promise for the steps outlined by an experienced scenario planning practitioner (van der Merwe, 2009) thereby allowing us to consider VSP. See Table 2 for suggested methods for VSP. Note that these suggestions in no way assume that these are the only technologies available for this purpose as there are many varieties of modern technologies that could be beneficial for the steps outlined by Van Der Merwe (2008).
  16. 16. VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 16 Table 2: Van der Merwe’s (2008) Seven Phases of a Typical Scenario Planning Project Augmented with Suggested Methods for VSP Phase Activity Description Typical Resources/Method Suggested Methods for VSP 1 Interviews with decision makers, and informal leaders in the organization (Internal Environment) Conduct, Document, Analyze and Provide Feedback on 10-25 face- to-face (F2F) interviews. In Person or Phone Interviews, recorded and transcribed utilizing a computer. Interviews could be recorded on a web conference platform such as Zoom.us for later playback for transcribing. Survey and Polling technology could be utilized for gathering input from decision makers and informal leaders, as appropriate. 2 Gathering Feedback, Sorting and Structuring of Dynamics (External Environment) Gather information specific to the environment in which the organization operates, as well the social, technological, economic, environmental forces and critical trends. Accessing Industry News outlets, eNewsletters, Electronic Databases, Web- based Industry Magazines. Scenario Team could utilize an electronic repository such as Dropbox.com and give access to all participating members for their review. Survey, Polling, and Social Networking platforms could be utilized for input, gathering feedback. Gamification-type platforms for gathering multiple ideas/trends in a short period of time. 3,4 Rigorous Analysis and Building Capacity for Strategic Conversation Workshops held to consolidate and integrate a set of 2-4 scenarios held 6-8 weeks apart to allow for deep reflection and analysis. Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis involving the use of tools such as systems loops and links, story maps, ladder of inference and a conversation quality checklist is utilized. The integration of scenarios is normally done as a series of 3-4 F2F workshops of two days each. Workshops could be facilitated through integrated web conferencing platforms such as On24.com or Blackboard Collaborate or other program utilizing a digital whiteboard. Quantitative analysis software (i.e. SPSS.com) and Qualitative analysis software such as NVivo 10 (QSR.com) could be utilized for large sets of qualitative data.
  17. 17. VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 17 5 Constructing a scenario artifact Provides a written record of the activities; the artifact should “use a wide variation of tables and illustrations to reflect both explicit and implicit aspects of storylines” (van der Merwe, 2008, p. 227). Creation of a scenario workbook, scenario web site, or utilizing other media depicting a set of vividly titled scenario stories “oral history of the future” (p. 229). A myriad of web-based options are available to archive the scenario artifacts such as a Wordpress.com blog, a Facebook or LinkedIn page, or housed on an Intranet for employee-only access if proprietary information is a concern. Scenario stories could be depicted in eBook format, video format, depicted in a 3D virtual reality/virtual world setting where avatars could move around and examine models and key artifacts (McWhorter, 2010; Short, 2010, 2013), or enhanced with augmented reality. 6 Sustaining strategic conversations Holding a series of forums where leadership comes together to discuss the dynamics that may affect the organization Series of forum-styled meetings that capture the strategic conversations Series of forum-styled meetings that capture the strategic conversations that can be held over web conferencing platforms can be used and archived for on-demand viewing. Or, held in social networking venues in real-time or asynchronously (i.e. Twitter or LinkedIn) 7 Documenting noticeable results Because scenario-based strategy “builds assets in the organization that could be called intangible…it is essential to measure..and document the results flowing from the process” (van der Merwe, 2008, p. 229) Utilize instruments that document co-created or surfaced (tacit) knowledge; also, measure quality of scenario conversations and the effects of the scenario processes on the organization. In addition to traditional methods, these results could be documented and studied through electronic surveys such as Qualtrics.com with participation from various stakeholders, particularly requesting open-ended responses. Findings and How They Inform Initial Conceptualization of Virtual Scenario Planning (VSP)
  18. 18. VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 18 The informing literatures considered above help inform initial conceptualization of VSP in a number of ways. First, they help us represent the conceptual location of the construct of VSP in the informing (and foundational) literature within the field of human resource development (HRD). Second, they enable us to identify descriptive constructs and sub-constructs integral to the theoretical conceptualization of VSP. Third, they enable us to begin constructing and thereby developing a better understanding of VSP as an integrated system of inputs, processes, and outputs. Conceptually Locating the Phenomenon of VSP in the Landscape of HRD The phenomenon of VSP occurs within the landscape of the field of HRD, at the intersection of Scenario Planning and Virtual HRD—indicating that VSP occurs in the confluence of these two bodies of HRD-related knowledge. Figure 1 graphically represents this conceptual location. Figure 1. Conceptually Locating Virtual Scenario Planning (VSP) Context of Praxis: The Field of HRD
  19. 19. VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 19 Informing Constructs and Sub-constructs The previously presented informing literatures—on scenario planning, virtual HRD and virtual scenario planning—enable us to begin to identify conceptually the descriptive constructs and sub-constructs integral to the conceptualization of the phenomenon of VSP. Table 3 depicts a synthesis of these informing constructs and sub-constructs from the first two bodies of informing knowledge, and how they inform the initial conceptualization of VSP. Table 3: How Constructs and Sub-constructs from Foundational Literature Inform Initial Conceptualization of VSP Informing Constructs and Sub-Constructs from Foundational Literature How Inform Conceptualization of VSP Scenario Planning (SP)  SP utilizes has participant(s) and SP expert(s)  SP is “HRD’s strategic learning tool”, then VSP should be about strategy and learning  7 phases of a typical scenario process  Outcomes of Scenario Stories, Changed mental models  Strategic conversation, improved decision making should be outcome of VSP  Ability to respond to change should be outcome of VSP Virtual HRD (VHRD)  VHRD is culturally relevant networked environment so VSP will contain elements of culture and online environments should include tools and processes to bring out the cultural elements  VHRD is a networked environment that is intentional and strategic; therefore, selection of an environment for VSP should be intentional and strategic to facilitate the VSP process  VHRD is about improving community-building; therefore, VSP should also enhance this characteristic as well  VHRD includes both formal and informal learning; therefore aspects of VSP will also involve both types of learning - Technology  TD integrates technology with HRD objectives and VSP should have HRD objectives and integrated technology as well
  20. 20. VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 20 Development (TD)  TD should improve performance; therefore, VSP should also have improving learning capacity and performance through the integration of technology and HRD objectives  HRD professionals will need to have competencies in the selection of integrated environments to optimize learning and performance in virtual environments - Virtual Teams  Virtual Teams connecting remotely for VSP will require highly effective leadership to optimize VSP with specific purpose outlined  A trustful environment should be established when utilizing virtual teams for VSP  Specific enabling protocols and techniques for virtual communication should be established for VSP when utilizing the virtual team approach  Explicit Virtual Team management should be examined such that establishment of trust, expectations, guidelines for the group - Virtual Technologies  Sophisticated technologies should be examined for their usefulness for VSP including high collaboration tools (i.e. visual social media) and archiving for later on-demand review since there may be a number of days or weeks between VSP events  Time should be set aside is for VSP for participants to be immersed in the VSP activities so that they are not distracted by daily tasks and routines  Digital artifacts from the VSP activities should be readily available VSP as Interacting Inputs-Processes-Outputs (a First Conceptualization) A content analysis of the foundational bodies of literature briefly explicated, and an exploratory synthesis of findings reflective of the conceptual location and informing constructs and sub-constructs (see Figure 1 and Table 3), together inform an initial conceptualization of the phenomenon of VSP as an integrated system of inputs, processes and outputs. Figure 2 illustrates this initial, and indeed exploratory, conceptualization.
  21. 21. VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 21 Figure 2: An Initial and Exploratory Conceptualization of VSP as Interacting System of Inputs—Processes—Outputs Inputs Processes Outputs  Identified participants with knowledge of online environments  SP expert(s) with experience working in online environments  Specified Purpose identified  Media-rich environment  Collaborative, networked Web 2.0 technologies chosen intentionally and strategically  Analytical technologies  Virtual team approach  Tools and processes enabling cultural elements of organization or project aim  Specific time set aside for scenario planning with minimized distractions  “Getting the system in the room”  7 Phases of SP processes  Virtual Teams  Community Building, Trust  Virtual Team communication  Virtual strategic conversations  Virtual team management and monitoring of objectives and incenting  Participant engagement  Scenario stories  Digital artifacts of virtual collaboration  Changed mental models  Improved decision making  Increased technology competencies  Ability to respond to change  Formal and informal learning  Innovation  Virtual Learning
  22. 22. VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 22 The preceding presentations, analysis and synthesis of the foundational bodies of knowledge informative to an initial conceptualization of the phenomenon of VSP holds promise for further development and refinement of the same. This initial, and exploratory theorizing work has a number of evident implications for HRD- and phenomenon-related research, theory and practice. As such it should offer, at the very least, food-for-thought for current planners, researchers, theorists, and practitioners. Implications for HRD What might be possible implications of this venture into the initial (and exploratory) conceptualization of the phenomenon of VSP for the broader field of HRD? A discussion of some of related possibilities follows. Implications for Related Research Three notable related research implications can be ventured. The first is that extended inquiry should be carried out to garner cases of VSP such as locating scenario planners who may have done parts of or all scenario planning in an online venue. Processes and results of such cases have yet to be studied and documented in the literature. The second is that inquiry using participants who have both experience with scenario planning and virtual activities might be useful in informing the further development of VSP. A third is that developing methodologies for researching VSP in the natural environment where it occurs (online) should be developed for this context and studied. A fourth might be comparing and contrasting VSP with a spectrum of conventional approaches to, kinds and outcomes (espoused and actualized) of scenario planning. Such contrasting will help understand and highlight similarities and differences, as well as strengths and weaknesses, among these kinds of, approaches to and philosophies of scenario planning.
  23. 23. VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 23 Implications for Related Theory A few discernable theory-related implications might be concluded from this exploratory venture of the concept of VSP. First, that while this exploratory theorizing has laid the groundwork for an initial conceptualization of VSP, there is much more needed to advance conceptual development and understanding of this phenomenon. As a result, additional and focused theory building processes need to be followed, including further conceptual development, operationalization, testing and application (Lynham, 2002), such that VSP can be examined, described and understood in its real-world context. A second implication is that it can be expected that a theory of conventional scenario planning will not be the same as one of virtual scenario planning (McWhorter, 2011; McWhorter & Lynham, this article). For instance, units of participant and contextual diversity, global boundary, levels of engagement and technological expertise are not included in Chermack’s (2003a) theory of conventional SP—but would need to be included in that of a theory of VSP (McWhorter & Lynham, this article). Furthermore, and significantly, neither transferability (from context to context) nor transportability (to different kinds of participants) (Lincoln & Lynham, 2011) can be assumed from the one theory to the other. Implications for Related Practice Similarly to research and theory, a number of notable implications for related practice might be ventured. The first is that using VSP allows for more richness (breadth) and depth of inputs to the scenario planning—such as scanning—because it allows for more stakeholders to be involved from multiple locations in the ongoing process. Following on this first implication another is that using VSP activities allows access to such planning for those not otherwise able to do so due to time and cost constraints. This implication in turn can be expected to afford the
  24. 24. VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 24 organization/user a better chance of getting-the-whole-system-in the room, and thus optimizing participation and ‘future’ preparedness of its members. It also can be expected to create opportunities for a more diverse group of VSP participants and planners than possible in conventional scenario planning. A fourth discernable implication is that technology can archive activities for on-demand playback. Doing so would in turn allow for further review and carryover from one session to the next thus promoting cohesion and maximize the learning of participants from the process (Nafukho, Graham & Muyia, 2010). Another implication is that utilizing VSP allows for a more sustainable environment for “green computing” whereby carbon emissions are reduced due to virtual communication alternatives. For organizations/users committed to as much this potential impact on their ‘green ratio’ would likely be an important consideration. And, for nonprofit organizations and small businesses struggling to stay viable, open source scenario planning at relatively little or cost can be critical. Also, technology can be used to analyze some initial scanning and other data if designed into the process, enabling a wider and deeper scan of this important input information to scenario planning. Concomitantly, the ‘reach’ and ‘range’ of scenario planning and related activities can be extended beyond the conventional model/approach, enabled by using the medium of technology as core process. It is important to underscore a further implication for practice, namely, that HRD professionals should receive proper training in educational institutions for technology development as one of the four primary content areas so that they can assist with, for example, VSP initiatives. Suggestions by Fagan (2014) and Bennett (2014a) described the pairing of HRD and Information Systems students to cross-pollinate and build their competencies in both areas. A similar idea would be to utilize Service Learning projects or Internships (paid or unpaid)
  25. 25. VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 25 where HRD students engage in experiential learning within technology-related organizations or departments that utilize various forms of technologies such as organization-wide systems (i.e. ERPs, Intranets) as well as professional usage of social networking platforms that develop social media skills (Delello & McWhorter, 2014), and eLearning efforts for training and development. Such knowledge will help HRD professionals to build expertise to design and leverage technology for proper fit between VSP purpose and participants and methodology used (TD). Finally, HRD professionals should understand scalability and proper selection of tools to support VSP activities (technology development), particularly for large VSP efforts. Such understanding will optimize the user experience in VSP such that the tool is not a hindrance to the scenario planning process, but rather it is a facilitator of VSP. This project, on the phenomenon of virtual scenario planning (VSP) and informing initial conceptualization thereof, represents an exploratory endeavor of theorizing, and early steps in the journey towards theory-building. Even so, the initial outcomes presented offer promise for further and more rigorous such work. While we are all aware of the rapidity of change in the contexts in which the field of HRD finds itself, none is both more daunting and promising than that of the increasing complexity of these contexts, and the pace of technology development. Virtual scenario planning (VSP) seems to hold much promise in helping us to bridge both and in so doing continue to inform rigor and relevance within the field.
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  34. 34. VIRTUAL SCENARIO PLANNING 34 Wilkinson, A., & Kupers, R. (2013). Living in the futures: How scenario planning changed corporate strategy. Harvard Business Review, 91(5), 118-127. Workman, M. (2005). Virtual team culture and the amplification of team boundary permeability on performance. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 16, 435-458. Yoon, S. W., & Lim, D. H. (2010). Systemizing virtual learning and technologies by managing organizational competency and talents. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 12(6), 715-727. doi:10.1177/1523422310394796 Bios Rochell McWhorter is an Assistant Professor of Human Resource Development, College of Business and Technology, at The University of Texas at Tyler. Her publications include Virtual HRD, scenario planning and visual social media. She proposed and was lead editor of 2010 Special Issue titled “Exploring the Construct of Virtual Human Resource Development” in 12(6) issue of Advances in Human Resources. She chaired the Technology, eLearning and Virtual HRD Track, AHRD International Conference in the Americas. Rochell can be reached at: rmcwhorter@uttyler.edu Susan Lynham is an Associate Professor at Colorado State University. Her research areas include responsible leadership, scenario planning based leadership development, national human resource development, constructivist inquiry, and theory development in applied disciplines. She is a past board member of the Academy of HRD, is past Editor-in-Chief of Advances in Developing Human Resources journal, and serves on the editorial board of several core journals in the field. Susan can be reached at: Susan.Lynham@colostate.edu Note: This is the last author’s copy of this paper. The final definitive copy of this work is available online at: http://adh.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/04/30/1523422314532096.abstract?rss=1 and will soon be available in print in the Advances in Developing Human Resources Journal, 2014.

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