Slide 1

Michael Mainelli and Sarah-Jane Critchley, The Z/Yen Group


[A version of this article appeared as "FM Strategy for the Yuppie, Activist, Bureaucrat or Victim. Which are you?", I-FM Opinion, (October 2000) 4 pages.]

Scenario Planning

Anyone who has been to a business or personal development seminar will know that the best speakers make full use of stories to illustrate their points. Scenario planning has been used by some of the world's biggest organisations. Royal Dutch Shell (Van der Heijden. Scenarios: the art of strategic conversation. Wiley. Chichester, 1996) has spent many years and a lot of money learning how to tell stories of possible futures as a way of understanding them. Using stories improves a manager's ability to deal with uncertainty, particularly as an aid to strategic planning and in communicating to the organisation as a whole.

Scenarios can also help to articulate the central motivation or business idea. The creation of a story encourages managers to think more creatively either in response to current or future situations. The story gives a structure to otherwise unrelated facts allowing a greater degree of complexity to be clearly understood.

As FM Managers we have seen the value of presenting scenarios to teams as a guide to people's behaviour in different circumstances. It can also be useful to recognise your own preferences and the differences between the view that you hold of the world compared to that of others. Scenarios can create stories that are so vivid they cry out for action. Each story then leads to the development of workable strategies to meet your organisational needs. A really good story makes it easy for your teams to commit to the strategy, eliminating one of the common barriers to success.

The role of the individual

Any discussion of scenarios has to take into account that each and every one of us has a range of preferences in the way that we see the world and the way that we behave, and that our preference will vary depending on the context. I may be fatalistic about a meteorite strike, for example, but feel that I can affect the defection rate of customers to my competitors.

Z/Yen uses four personality types (based on John Adams, Risk, pages 34-38, UCL Press, 1995) to attempt to develop a more complete range of scenarios.

  • The Individualist is typified by the 80's yuppie, believing they can improve their own situation but not caring about the impact on others. 

  • The Uber-egalitarian is a social activist who will work individually or as a part of a group to achieve an end that they see as being important for society. 

  • The Hierarchist or bureaucrat is driven by the need to broker power deals, and will value even the wrong outcome achieved by the right process.  

  • Our last type is the Fatalist or victim, who believes that they cannot affect what is going to happen and therefore does not act.

How will the FM market develop and how will customers respond? Each of the following scenarios gives a different story of the future. Use the scenarios below to explore the possibilities for each personality type.

Individualist or ‘Yuppie’

Uber egalitarian or ‘Social activist’ - Bill

Personal Approach
·        I’m all right, Jack!

Personal Approach
·        We think there ought to be a law

·        Free for all
·        Survival of the fittest
·        Driven by market forces

·        User groups combine
·        Cross-company co operation
·        Professional organisations combine forces

Impact on FM Market
·        Growth of bespoke, tailored solutions
·        Proliferation of different approaches
·        Good providers flourish, poor providers die

Impact on FM Market
·        Integration of FM market
·        Professional organisations spread good levels of qualification
·        More barriers making it harder to outsource

Customer response to FM
·        Pick and choose service provider according to individual preference
·        No customer loyalty/defections increase
·        Income level per customer decreases

Customer response to FM
·        Participates in designing ideal FM service
·        Loyalty high/defections low
·        Income per customer is high

Hierarchist or ‘Bureaucrat’ - Paul

Fatalist or ‘Victim’ - John

Personal Approach
·        We control things, don’t rock the boat!

Personal Approach
·        I am powerless

·        Increased control
·        Political alliances determine the future
·        Markets are regulated

·        Growth of bigger and better unstoppable outsourcing
·        Contract length shortens 
·        Yet more pressure to reduce support costs

Impact on FM Market
·        Consortia are needed
·        New players without leverage are unable to enter the market
·        Regulation increases cost

Impact on FM Market
·        Mass redundancies
·        Good opportunities but only for the  excellent and big service providers
·        Disappearance of poorly performing FM providers

Customer response to FM
·        Fewer alternatives increases level of income per customer
·        Dissatisfaction grows as companies fail to focus on customer satisfaction
·        Customers have no option but to pay more

Customer response to FM
·        Customers want to do their own FM
·        High quality alternatives speed customer defections
·        Customers won’t pay for quality


1 Adapt or Die. Jo's story.

Jo is the FM Manager of a large City corporate, she has worked long and hard to get an exceptionally well paid post. She loves spending her money on designer clothes and was the first of her group of friends to buy a beautiful red sports car. She goes skiing twice year, where she likes to compete in the resort races (which she usually wins!).

She prides herself on providing the best possible service for her clients, beating the competition hands down and drives through continuous innovation to ensure that she stays ahead. If a supplier lets her down, she'll find a better one, before her customers do.

She has put together a portal for her customers where they can buy flowers and order shopping as well as meet their business needs. This has allowed her to monitor and meet the needs of her customers far more accurately and give her an edge over the competition.

Jo was lucky; her friend in another company was slower to meet the needs of his customers and lost his job when they all went to other providers, reducing both his workflow and his income. Privately, she thinks that he should have acted faster.

2. United We Stand. Bill's story.

Bill finds it hard to find time for work, as he has to fit it in around his work for charities and pressure groups. Paid employment is how he can support his other activities. He cares passionately about the environment, which is why he accepted the post as FM manager of the new facility in Bristol with a state of the art low impact environmental management system. It also means that he can cycle the 5 miles to work.

Bill is a member of British Institute of Facilities Management and a number of other FM organisations both nationally and locally as he sees the benefit of working within groups to create better solutions to clients. He is also the local union representative because he believes that his members need to be protected. His day is full of meetings with customers, suppliers and partners, working to gain agreement on service levels and the best way of both meeting current expectations and new challenges.

He is part of a user group putting together a web site with comparative pricing to ensure that the members get the best possible deal. Bill sees the future as inherently threatening although he works unceasingly to avert the catastrophic future he expects.

3. Powerbroking

Paul loves having friends in high places. His contacts occupy influential roles in business and government. His work with E-FM, Europe's largest FM consortium has led to the formation of a sister consortium from the same group, purely for the formation of government policy on commercial trading. Outsourcing contracts are now let for at least 10 to15 years. His position in the company is secure, as customers have no choice but to use his services. As a result, some are rebelling, but as they do not have the ear of the board as he does, will almost certainly be sidelined.

Paul took this job because of the power that he is able to wield. Some of his friends earn far more than he does at this point in his career, but they don't have his widespread influence over others or his long term earning potential. He loves knowing that the deals that he strikes will have a profound effect on huge numbers of people.

He sees the future as full of opportunity for the right people in the right place and much of his energy goes into making sure that he is one of them.

4. Turkeys refuse to vote

John is in denial. In common with his circle of friends (all of whom work for the company) he has seen both in-house and external FM providers go to the wall. He can't compete with other service providers, so he doesn't try. Surely if he does nothing more than is asked of him, no one will notice and his job might be safe? He can't see that he has the power to change anything, so he has opted out of acting to improve his lot. He feels uncomfortable and threatened by changes around him.

Unfortunately, the move towards outsourcing has carried on apace. Even though his company took over from the in-house provider just 2 years ago, they are failing to perform and the client is seeking renegotiation of the contract already. In the mean time customers are voting with their feet. The first he knew about it was when one of his customers brought another contractor through the reception to deliver a service that he offers.

John is also under pressure from his bosses who would like to know why the service is so poor and why he is failing to develop the service into new e-commerce areas. Strangely, he remembers a time when he felt that he could make a difference. Perhaps it is time for a career move?


Each scenario tells a story of an individual in a way that makes their approach easy to recognise. Within your own organisation you will have people who exhibit Individualist or Fatalist tendencies working along side others who conform more to the Uber-egalitarian or Hierarchist types. Whilst it is important not to pigeonhole people, it can be very useful to have a short hand to refer to their behavioural preferences. Having decided what mix you have in your team, feel free to use the scenarios to develop strategies to create a fuller picture of the range of possible futures.

In this article, we have chosen to take the approach from the perspective of an individual FM manager. It is equally valid to use it to explore the future for companies. You could also draw up a range of scenarios that present alternative views of the wider business environment.

When interpreting the stories that evolve, it is important to remember that no single future will exist to the exclusion of all others. Life is not an either/or proposition but paradoxically both.