Scenario Planning

Positioning Australia to meet its freight challenge over the coming 20-years required deep thinking about what the future could look like. The Australian Government commissioned the Centre for Supply Chain and Logistics, Deakin University, to conduct long-term scenario planning to help inform the 2017 Inquiry into National Freight and Supply Chain Priorities and the 2019 National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy. This scenario planning helped to identify what areas need reform now to place Australia in the best position to meet the future.

The scenario planning project included:

  • the identification and validation of potential drivers of change in freight and supply chains in Australia through a series of 52 one-on-one interviews and relevant literature reviews.
  • the development and validation of four scenarios based on these drivers with a time horizon of 20 years.
  • the facilitation of their application in workshops, to inform the inquiry into Australia’s national freight and supply chain priorities.

The project outcomes concluded the following:

  • A technology-driven revolution is imminent, powered by automation data. Regulators should stay ahead of the technological changes that automation and data will bring, enabling the implementation of the most promising advances for the sake of greater competitiveness.
  • The focus of education and training may need to change focus toward more numerical, technical and analytical subjects, as well as future focused courses on subjects such as robotics and optimisation.
  • New generations of consumers embrace different values and have increased expectations, such as the direct delivery of their goods with few delays, and aligned with their views of social and environmental sustainability.
  • A lack of coordination across levels of governments, combined with the effects of Australia’s short political cycles, which may prevent the development of a harmonious regulatory framework and long-term plan for infrastructure development. There is some concern amongst industry about a lack of coordination.

The four scenarios

The scenarios created revolved around two key groups of driving forces which were found to have the highest combination of impact, likelihood and uncertainty that may shape the future of the freight sector:

  • Environmental pressures (in particular climate change)
  • Automation

This resulted in four scenarios:

  • The Rise of the Machines – a possible future featuring high technological advancement and high concern for the climate.PDF: 1.51 MB
  • Enter the Dragon – a possible future dealing with advancing technology, but one with little concern for the climate. PDF: 1.28 MB
  • Flat, Crowded and Divided – a world where population growth has boomed, while technological advancement and actions to address climate change have slowed. PDF: 1.38 MB
  • Big Brother Goes Green – a world of high climate concern, but where there promise of automation development has failed to come to fruition. PDF: 1.24 MB

The reports listed above present the scenarios with fictional newspaper articles showing what the world could look like under each scenario.

The Australian Government is making these reports public as a resource for others undertaking scenario planning work or those seeking to work through what the world could look like in the future.

What is scenario planning?

In general terms, scenario planning exercises usually pursues one or more of the following general objectives:

  • To anticipate what the future may bring, i.e. what challenges we may face, and what opportunities may open to us within the time horizon explored.
  • To brainstorm what we may do in the future, i.e. to generate ideas about what areas, directions, policies and measures we may decide to pursue within the chosen time horizon.
  • To identify blind spots in the decision under consideration, i.e. to explore, given a set of areas, directions, policies and measures we are considering, whether we have left out anything important.
  • To acid-test decisions under consideration, i.e. to explore whether the areas, directions, policies and measures we are considering would play out well – and be future-ready – in our scenarios.

The scenario planning project that CSCL conducted for the Australian Government sought to address all these objectives through a two stage process. The first stage, conducted for the 2017 Inquiry, focused on the first two of these objectives, namely anticipating what the future may bring, brainstorming what Australia may do, and identifying blind spots.

The second stage was conducted in 2018 and focused on the third and fourth objectives, namely identifying blind spots in the Inquiry’s recommendations, and acid-testing the elements of the Strategy’s National Action Plan.