Managing the survivor syndrome as scenario planning methodology … and it matters!

Hong Bui, Vinh Sum Chau, Jacqueline Cox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (SciVal)
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The importance of foresight is discussed in relation to why traditional scenario planning methodology is problematic at achieving it. The “survivor syndrome” is borrowed from the human resources literature and presented as a metaphor for foresight to illustrate how better “scenarios” can be achieved by understanding the syndrome better. A practice perspective is given on the use of a seven-theme framework as a method of interviewing survivors. The paper aims to discuss this issue.

The paper draws from an empirical research that took place during the 2008 global financial crisis to illustrate the richness of the insights that would otherwise not be obtainable through scenario planning methods that do not involve “survivors.” In that research, semi-structured interviews were employed with key personnel at multiple levels of one private and one public organization that had undergone a redundancy process at the time of the crisis to explore its effect on the remaining workforce.

The “survivor syndrome” itself would be minimized if managers consider the feelings of survivors with more open communication. Survivors in private firms were found generally to experience anxiety, but are more likely to remain more motivated, than their counterparts in the public sector. These detailed insights create more accurate “scenarios” in scenario planning exercises.

Organizational performance can be better enhanced if the survivor syndrome can be better managed. In turn, scenario planning, as a form of organizational foresight, is better practiced through managing the survivor syndrome. Scenario planning methodology has proliferated well in the human resource management literature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)838-854
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Productivity and Performance Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2019


  • Performance management
  • Scenario planning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Strategy and Management


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