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FHWA Office of Real Estate Services Research Results: 2006 Preferred Future Scenario for Public Sector Real Estate

Introduction

The FHWA Office of Real Estate Services (HEPR) invited a group of twenty-five stakeholders to gather for a Scenario Development Think Tank in Arlington, Virginia on March 15-16, 2006. This group, made up of federal and state agency real estate professionals, environmental and planning specialists as well as private sector professionals working in public sector real estate, was invited to provide input to a project designed to develop a twenty-five year view of the future of public sector real estate.

The primary purpose of the Think Tank was to develop recommendations for critical policies, procedures, tools, technologies, and best practices for providing public sector real estate services in the years 2006-2030 based on plausible futures scenarios. Glen Hiemstra, founder of Futurist.com, facilitated the one and a half day session.

As Exhibit 1-1 illustrates, the preferred future is part of the possible future and separate from the probable future in that it is obtainable through the conduct of certain strategic actions. These strategic actions are ones that can be pursued in the present in order to steer intently towards the preferred future.The scenario development process used was an abbreviated version of the classic Royal Dutch Shell approach to scenario planning called the Preferred Future Scenario Development Process. The Preferred Future Scenario Development process seeks to anticipate probable and possible future scenarios and to focus them into preferred alternatives as well as to identify the critical strategic actions or issues that, if followed, will lead to the preferred future. As Exhibit 1-1 illustrates, the preferred future is part of the possible future and separate from the probable future in that it is obtainable through the conduct of certain strategic actions. These strategic actions are ones that can be pursued in the present in order to steer intently towards the preferred future. The figure suggests that early identification of actions and strategies that shift your direction from the probable future to the preferred future is vital to successfully shaping the future.

The process identified likely future trends called "pre-determined elements," and possible future developments called "critical uncertainties." Teams then developed plausible scenarios in outline form, seeking to integrate both external developments and the resulting implications for public sector real estate.

Each team took into account the same set of pre-determined elements, and a unique set of critical uncertainties. The goal was to outline a plausible future, not to determine a mostly likely scenario. This activity leads to an exploratory style of thinking in which new options and possibilities for the issue in question, namely public sector real estate, can be discovered.

The first day of the Think Tank was devoted to exploring long-term future trends and issues and the development of four basic scenarios spanning the next twenty-five years. The intent of this work was to create a mind-set of long-term thinking, as compared to the immediate, problem-solving mentality that is typical in planning sessions.

The participants used the thinking generated by the exploration of trends and development of scenarios to zero-in on recommendations of preferred policies, practices, tools and technologies for public sector real estate in the near and longer term future. Day two of the Think Tank was dedicated to identifying a list of ideas for HEPR and others to use when developing their work plan, practices, policies and research agenda for the coming years.

The following section presents the primary outcomes of the Preferred Future Scenario Development Think Tank - the Preferred Future and the Strategic Issues for HEPR. The subsequent sections detail the process and exercises followed in developing these outcomes. The appendices present a list of the Think Tank participants, the Think Tank Agenda, and the Think Tank slides.

Updated: 09/05/2014
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