Timelines, scenarios, Stories

By Birger Sevaldson



Timelines are very useful for several reasons.

All systems are dynamic, and static network diagrams have one big drawback: they do not describe the dynamics of the system properly. Therefore, timelines are needed as a central part of GIGA-mapping.

Timelines are also very useful for short workshops where there will be unstructured conversations. They have been used extensively by Andreas Wettre, a leadership consultant who is a long-term collaborator in SOD. He uses this approach with the leaders of companies and organizations who are immersed in change processes. In such processes the misalignment of perceptions of their shared organization is often an problem that hinders good communication.

Timelines provide a natural sorting device that allows for conversations to jump in a very flexible way back and forth along the timeline. It makes it possible to have open-ended, unstructured and emergency meetings that still are focussed and that generate a better overall shared understanding.

Timelines are not only good for describing processes, but also for designing and projecting possible futures. They also can serve as a seamless bridge to building scenarios and narratives (storytelling). These stages are needed for systems-oriented design to develop new interventions and innovations and to imagine how they might work. This is also crucial for preparing the system for extreme scenarios to test the system’s resilience and to hopefully avoid counterintuitive and unwanted effects from the system change. I  systems theory the counterintuitive systems behaviour is a well-known problem. As designers we need to avoid solving problems just to create new ones.

In the following, we will present some timelines and scenarios. There is a blurred distinction between timelines that are descriptive, timelines that are generative and future oriented and scenarios in general.



Ingrid Heringstad Marianne Sælensminde Caring for caregivers 2014 web2

 A complex timeline showing how the situation of caregivers (Heringstad and Sælensminde 2014)


Johansen Hverdagen til dagens eldre 1 HIOA 2016 s

 A map describing typical the everyday life of todays elderly people. (Johansen HIOA 2016) 


AHO ID prosj Timeline s


A project timeline derived form Gant diagram showing research projects at the institute of design AHO. The map is both descriptive looking back and prescriptive looking forward for planning purposes.



implementation terese charlotte aarland web2

 A circular timeline indicates a repetitive process. Implementation map. ( Terese Charlotte Aarland, AHO 2009)


More to follow