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Miami Dade Water & Sewer Department's View of the Future using Scenario Planning and Strategic Thinking

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Managers, who are able to perceive trends and weak signals where others see only noise and chaos, can capitalize on the rapid change in our society. Even though everyone knows that we are living in a world of rapid, accelerating change, too many organizations are planning for a future of “more of the same. ”They anticipate linear change along current paths, when they might be better off preparing for the unexpected: major discontinuities. The two major decision errors managers frequently make are:

Overconfidence “We believe we are quite good at what we do, and we all greatly overestimate our knowledge and understanding.”

Anchoring bias “When we plan for the future, we may think it will be packaged a little differently, but it will fundamentally be a continuation of the present.”

What is more, many organizations have focus on sustaining competitiveness through improving operational effectiveness and cutting costs. But in the process, senior leadership runs the risk of developing a bunker mentality. Their intent on protecting what they have today and what they need next quarter has drains energy from the task of envisioning the future, managing uncertainty and sustaining and growing the organization. This paper will illustrate the scenario planning process and explain the value to other managers.

MDWASD has created a vision and strategy for the next ten years. Through the use of “Scenario Thinking,” senior managers and staff challenged familiar assumptions and helped their organizations prepare for, and prevail in, a future where the rules of competition are being re-written. Preparing scenarios in a timely, cost-effective manner and developing the appropriate business strategy, provide the link between scenario planning and business strategy.

Scenario Thinking is a tool for augmenting the process by which organizations refresh their business vision, sharpen their competitive edge and adapt in a business climate that rarely shows complacency. Today's marketplace is simply too volatile for any organization to place its long-term bets on a single picture of the future.

Scenario Thinking can help organizations prepare for the inevitable major changes on the far horizon, and also for unexpected shifts that could happen sooner if political, environmental, or technological factors take an unexpected turn.. The final goal is to find ways for organizations to create value for customers, stakeholders, employees and communities, that are durable in different possible futures.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2001

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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