Creating scenarios (1)

I’ve just started a new project to create some branching scenarios for an internal team who have to implement a procurement policy across a large number of business units. I’m going to document the process as part of my own learning and, I hope, because it might be useful for others doing this kind of thing.

I’ve done two similar projects so by now it feels like I have a process in my mind and have documented it for the team. Last week we began with a teleconference. I spoke to the ‘owner’ of the learning project, whom I’ll call J, a person who was described as ‘conduit’ to the SMEs, whom I’ll call S and a project manager called C. He’s the manager of a wider review project of which this is a small part.

They told me the background that there are thousands of people across the company with some delegated financial authority (i.e. they can buy stuff), but they had a low level of awareness of corporate procurement policies – not only for getting the best deals but also of ethical and health-and-safety issues when goods or services are bought.

J had already sold the idea of scenarios based on typical ‘this could be you’ situations in preference to ‘An Introduction to Procurement Policy’ in 12 modules. The scenarios wouldn’t be the only training material – there would be Live Meeting seminars for certain groups.

The first task was to give them a steer on the kinds of situations they should focus on: situations that are (a) common and frequent, (b) where the implications can easily be generalised to other situations and (c) currently costing us in terms of money, reputation or other risk. They suggested a couple – for example a manager making a local purchase where approaching procurement for a group deal would have been better, and a manager who’s committed to a purchase without involving the corporate service but who now has to examine the contract s/he’ got to sign.

I left them to engage their SMEs to come up with more situations. For each one, they should list around five learning points to be covered in the situation (and express them if possible in behavioural objectives), and to think of an ‘oh shit’ moment that could arise later in the scenario (e.g. the company you’ve bought from suddenly folds).  For each of the learning points, they should list the likely real life consequences of getting it wrong.

The next meeting, set for next week, will be face-to-face and we’ll focus on one of the scenarios and, I hope, get it to a workable script.

An aside worth making is that neither J nor C had seen the scenarios we’d created before, and spent the meeting struggling to visualise what exactly they were getting into. They saw them straight after our teleconference and were much more positive and eager to get to work on them. Learning point: don’t assume people drafted in are aware of what they’re being drafted in for! (This echoes points made in Tom Kuhlmann’s blog How to work with subject experts.)

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