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In a Vuca world, business planning as we know it is a thing of the past

Posted on 13th February 2020 by Alexis Outram - What's trending?

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Perhaps for many the first question is, what is a Vuca world?

The term was first used by the American Military, it was the response of the US Army War College to the collapse of the USSR in the early 1990s – the end of the Cold War.  Simply a Vuca is a state where we all experience, in varying degrees, a world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. 

Previous generations, whilst perhaps they didn’t feel it, enjoyed often longer periods of certainty around the way they lived lives, carried out work and ran their businesses. As such it was often easier to make longer term strategic plans that invariably might be delivered with little or no change. 

Today though it seems increasingly challenging to plan for the year ahead, let alone the next five or more years. For some this may be welcome, preferring to just get on with the business as opposed to face the challenge or even chore of preparing a plan. This might be ok for the light of foot entrepreneurial small business with a good grasp of their market and ability to respond to change.   However, larger and more complex organisations, and especially those with external investment and other stakeholders, are more likely than not unable to adopt such an approach.

With this background in mind, there does seem to be a growing trend towards more light of touch and much abridged business plans. Often one that provides those charged with its ownership and delivery a greater focus around strategic intent and overall direction with a focus on a reason for being, a sense of purpose and values the organisation wants to exude and embrace.   

Such an approach perhaps frees time and energy to actually consider the potential impact of a vuca world on the business, its markets, operations and processes, with senior business leaders and managers engaged more in scenario planning with a view to being better able to deal with the impact of a changing world. The benefit of which helps to ensure the potential impact of change is assessed in terms of risk - both the impact and likelihood of it happening and that plans can be put in place to deal with situations as they arise. Ultimately, this helps to provide business resilience as well as ensure sustainability. It also helps to more adequately equip individuals to manage and cope with the changing environment.

For some the scenario outlined may seem more obvious, especially if they have been employed in the military. Equally followers of sport, may appreciate the role of scenario planning in terms of achieving competitive sporting aspirations, certainly at international level. For businesses though perhaps it is still early days, but it is possibly an approach that, within an increasingly changing world often with unpredictability, more will seek to adopt and develop. It undoubtedly makes for more stimulating, thought provoking and interesting Board meetings.

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