With BC municipal elections just around the corner, you’re no doubt thinking about getting your new staff/council team up to speed and rowing in the same direction as soon as possible by developing a strategic plan. And if you’ve developed one before, you’ve probably (hopefully!) employed a SWOT or force field analysis of some kind to ground your planning.  

Having led strategic planning processes with many BC municipalities, including the City of New Westminster, District of Tofino, Resort Municipality of Whistler, and others, we have consistently used SWOT and force field analyses to inform strategy development, and the approach works very well so long as the information is actually used to guide and then filter the identification and prioritization of strategies and deliverables.  

However, we were looking to apply more rigour to the analysis, so we explored scenario planning as a way to accomplish this while also recognizing that most small and medium sized communities don’t have $100k+ for modelling and full scenario planning.  

So, we modified one of the scenario planning types to avoid the time and cost of producing a set of fully developed scenarios while still accomplishing the following scenario planning benefits:  

  • Less biased identification and a more rigorous assessment of the uncertainties and complexities likely to impact a community (or organization) 
  • Better positioning a community (or organization) to respond to changing and new external forces more quickly 

Our process includes these important scenario planning elements:  

  • The use of trusted and varied sources to help identify potential external factors (with the aim of avoiding the ‘availability bias,’ which is the tendency to focus on the things you already know and is one of the pitfalls of scenario planning 
  • High-level research to understand and describe the potential impact of each external force. 
  • An impact/variability assessment (image below) to determine which external forces should be considered in the planning process. 
  • Team input throughout the process to apply a place-based lens to the external force selection and assessment.  

Strategic planning framework


Interested in learning more about this approach specifically or about our strategic planning services generally? Contact Shannon at sgordon[at]whistlercentre.ca