Royal Dutch Shell Plc  .com Rotating Header Image What Does Shell Do With Its Scenarios?

January 21, 2008

By Dr. Robert Weber

Royal Dutch Shell has long been seen as one of the early business scenario planning pioneers. Scenario Mapping form of scenario plannning was created by Dave Mason, Jim Herman, and others at NCRI with awareness of Shell’s methods.

Paddy Briggs, who retired from Shell after 37 years, isn’t so upbeat on Shell’s use of scenarios. Briggs’ main point is that Shell uses scenarios for public relations and that their scenarios have little actual impact on corporate decision-making and shareholder value. After discussing several examples of how scenarios made no difference to Shell’s decision-making regarding China and Russia, Briggs concludes:

The invitation to [Shell CEO] Jeroen van der Veer to speak to world leaders at Davos will no doubt give him a warm glow that he, and Shell, are legitimate movers in the refined air of the “World Economic Forum”. And there will no doubt be approval of the new scenarios as I am sure that they will be as intellectually solid and stimulating as ever. But if pressed (as he should be) to give one example of how these scenarios are actually to be used in Shell strategic decision-making he will struggle. Because there is no evidence at all that Scenario planning has made a hapeworth of difference to Shell’s actions or performance over the years. Like so much of the public face of Shell the rhetoric is a long way from the reality.

A constant theme in my strategy work and writings is that scenarios only have value if they are well-integrated into decision-making and subsequent action. It appears that Briggs would agree.

Monday, January 21, 2008 and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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