Probability-Impact Chart

The most elementary environmental scanning system can quickly identify more potential events than we can effectively address. The events must be limited to some manageable number to ensure the organization's effectiveness. This limiting process is achieved by a rigorous, objective evaluation of the events that seen on the surface to be the most critical. The goal is to create a process within which the events compete with one another to determine their relative and/or expected importance. The less important events are the focus of continued monitoring and analysis or are used in the forecasting or other stages. The traditional methods of research analysis and forecasting can be used at this stage. Frequently, evaluation of the future impacts of a potential event must rest on opinion, belief, and judgmental forecasts.

One method of evaluating events identified during scanning involves addressing three separate questions: (1) What is the probability that the event will actually happen during some future period, usually the next decade? (2) Assuming it actually happens, what will its impact be on the future of higher education in Qatar? (3) What is the ability of the University to effectively anticipate, respond to, and manage the event? While these questions may appear easy to answer, their use and interpretation in the evaluation process involve care and subtlety. The results for the first two questions are plotted on a simple chart to produce a distribution of probability and impact. Many possible interpretations of the results can easily be displayed on such a chart.

We will use the Delphi technique to collect judgments on an event's probability and impact on Qatar University. Each group will select an event within those identified in the previous exercise as critical. Individual group members will independently evaluate the probability of an impact occurring within the next decade on a 0 – 100 scale and the degree of positive and negative impact on the University if that event occurs (see workshop handout: The Probability-Impact Chart). We will use a 10 point scale for degree of positive and the degree of negative impact. When the independent judgments have been made, each group member will record his vote on the flip chart using red paste on dots. The facilitator will then lead the group in a discussion of these questions: what is the reasoning behind the outliers for both probability and positive and negative impacts? The purpose of this approach is to get the reasoning “out on the table” underlying probability estimates and impact effects. When this discussion is exhausted, each group member will re-estimate the probability and degree of positive and degree of negative impact of the event and will so record their vote on the flip chart using blue paste on dots. The group will assist the reporter to prepare his summary of results of the Delphi to the larger workshop after lunch.


Morrison, J. L., Renfro, W. L., and Boucher, W. I. (1984). Futures Research and the Strategic Planning Process. ASHE/ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education Research Report Series Number 9.