Forecasting Methods

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This paper addresses four forecasting methods. The first is the Delphi technique, which could be considered one of the core tools of future forecasting. The remaining three are interrelated and consist of environmental scanning, issues management, and emerging issues analysis. These three have in common the aim of surveying the environment to determine likely issues that are going to impact upon an organization, community, or individual. Although, they are similar in this regard, they do differ on the urgency of the issues to be focused on.

The Delphi Technique

Essentially, Delphi is the name given to a set of procedures for eliciting and refining the opinions of a group - usually a panel of experts (Brown, 1968). It is a way whereby a consensus and position of a group of experts is reached after eliciting their opinions on a defined issue and it relies on the "informed intuitive opinions of specialists" (Helmer, 1994).

This collective judgment of experts, although made up of subjective opinions, is considered to be more reliable than individual statements and is thus more objective in its outcomes (Masini, 1993). As Linstone and Turoff (1975:3) write, "Delphi may be characterized as a method for structuring a group communication process, so that the process is effective in allowing a group of individuals, as a whole, to deal with a complex problem."

Although there are a range of Delphi techniques now in use and adapted for various needs, it is still possible to talk of a broad procedural outline that they follow. Firstly, the subject of the study is circulated to the participants in an unstructured manner to enable them to comment on the issues in question. This material is then synthesized by the monitoring team (one or more people coordinating the study) and distributed to the...