How to advance in a VUCA world

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In a VUCA world, how do we move forward?

Stop trying to foresee the future.

Much planning is waste. Right now, nobody can plan beyond the next ninety days. Nobody can say where we will be in a year.  Guess what: that’s the new normal.  The world is VUCA for good. The idea of constantly adjusting a longer term plan is a dated one, and expensive.

We have to add a lot more learning from chaos theory and complexity, to realise that planning should be minimal because the situation is unknowable.  Responsive adaptability is more important.

Build resilient agile work systems that can take as much as possible that the world throws at them. Then continually adapt as quickly as possible to changing circumstance. Adapt at all levels:

  • Governance: policy, goals, metrics, finance…
  • Management: strategy, policy, systems, processes, metrics….
    Systems: processes, tools…
  • People: teams, skills, incentives, resources…

By all means have a vision and goals, which you review regularly. They aren’t stars in the sky, they move too much for that analogy.

Even have plans for projects which are unavoidable, e.g .major infrastructure, macro change. But make them as incremental and flexible as possible. If we must have something to guide us, we need more of a roadmap.  No durations, no estimates.

Vision

So what does stay steady, like a star? What do we advance towards? Our principles, our values. We want to be more true to our principles over time.

The purpose of an organisation is no longer to pursue value. Greed is not good. The world wants stakeholder capitalism, social responsibility, the pursuit of values.

If we are true to our principles, decision-making is easier.
If we are resilient and agile, we respond quickly and effectively to constant change, to find our way to better. Nobody knows where that path will lead (no matter how much you pay them).

How to advance

How? that’s Toyota Kata.

1) Where do we want to be? What strategic vision are we currently pursuing?
2) Where are we now? What is changing? What had the world just done to us? What is the status of our work?
3) Where could we be soon (SMART)? What scenarios can we come up with?What are our options? What options for an unforeseen scenario? Of all the options we are currently keeping open, which one shall we go for?
4) What do we do next? What increment can we do to explore forwards? Take an experimental step and learn.

The Toyota Improvement Kata is the best approach in a VUCA world. We know where we want to be, where we are, and we know what we can do next. Everything else is guesswork, options.

Scenarios and options

What replaces planning in that zone of uncertainty between our short term plans and our long term visions?

Backlogs, scenarios, options, experiments.