Planning in a VUCA World (wait, what?)

Planning in a VUCA World (wait, what?)

Planning. To some it’s a four letter word. To others, it’s an activity that never happens in their organization. No matter how you think about planning, you’ve probably noticed that to be effective, it needs to be done in a much different way than it used to.

Why is that?

Well. In a word. VUCA. Actually, that’s an acronym. And it stands for the Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous environment we find ourselves and our businesses in. In a world changing so fast, we can’t rely on the rigid and financial-only-centric methods of our past.

So what does the planning organization of the future (and the present, if they’re good) look like? It looks agile.

Here are five key dimensions to an agile planning organization.

  • Begin with purpose. Farmers have a 20 year vision but react to today’s weather. They begin with the purpose of their farm and all decisions are viewed through that lens. It should be no different for modern day organizations.
  • Leverage the “sensory” system of organization. The planning of yesteryear had the C-Suite create plans, etch them on stone tablets, and then communicate the plan to underlings to execute. Today’s agile planning organization places value in involving everyone in the process. Not because it’s the polite or PC thing to do, but it activates the “sensory” system of the organization and supplies the organization with key knowledge from which to act.
  • Create forums, platforms, and technology for knowledge share. I’ve written about this in the past. If organizations are going to leverage the knowledge of the organization, they need the systems and processes to make that happen.
  • Create “learning agendas”. Planning, and in particular, strategic planning, is best viewed as a series of hypotheses and experiments to test the validity of the direction. The world is moving too fast and knowledge is in too many arenas to kick out a 40 page strategic document and then just blindly follow it regardless of outcomes. Bet the garden instead of betting the farm.
  • Encourage risks and failure. Last, but not least, the values (and therefore, culture) of the organization need to encourage learning through risk and failure. Failure isn’t something to be avoided, it’s something to be pursued. The trick is to pursue it fast and cheap so you can learn, grow, and move on in a refined direction.

Like this topic? Read Dave’s post on it here or listen to our podcast.

Categories: Capability, Culture, Process, Strategy

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