System dynamics (SD) has been shown to be a powerful strategic analysis approach, but it can also be a costly one. If there is an insistence that to have any validity and value, all models have to be constructed largely from scratch, then the time, expertise and costs involved appear, effectively, to preclude their widespread use in small–medium enterprise (SME) applications. This article describes “proof-of-concept” trials with a simulator based on a user-parameterised generic model that could offer affordable and manageable access to SD modelling for SMEs. While not pretending to provide quantitative predictions, the simulator does provide managers with a vehicle to challenge the validity of their mental models as their firm undergoes major change, to gain insights into the future challenges, and maybe enhance their confidence through “pre-experiencing” future scenarios. The trials concluded that user-parameterised generic models do have potential value in this kind of usage, and may therefore be the only viable option for many smaller firms to benefit from system dynamics modelling and scenario planning. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.