As a change-leader or manager, one of your primary responsibilities is to ensure that your organisation is able to navigate change succesfully. This means having a clear understanding of the change process and the tools and resources available to support it. One such resource is the VucaCanvas, which is explained in detail on vucacanvas.com. In this article, we’ll explore what the VucaCanvas is and how it can be used to support an effective strategic planning process.
What is the VucaCanvas?
The VucaCanvas is a tool designed to help organisations navigate the complexities of a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world. It provides a framework for assessing and calibrating the essential organisational capacities required in a rapidly changing environment.
The canvas is shaped out of six capacities, each of which represents an essential to thrive in the VUCA world:
- Adaptive: The capacity to easily change direction to suit different conditions is the essence of adaptability. In adaptive organisations, leaders create the right conditions for exploring new approaches, ideas and innovations as the environment evolves. Too often, traditional management sees experimentation as inefficient. Examples of adaptive organisations include Nokia’s evolution from paper manufacturer and tire factory to mobile phones.
- Sensitive: No organisation can predict the future. However, 'sensing' organisations are attuned to early signals and patterns that are harbingers of bigger social and economic shifts. They are disciplined about gathering diverse information as input into scenario planning to explore alternative futures and pre-empt potential threats. Shell is a well-known example of an organisation that is highly disciplined in taking the pulse of what’s happening in the world and adapting scenarios and operations accordingly.
- Resilient: Resilience is the ability to absorb shocks and recover quickly to original form. Buffers like surplus resources and 'rainy day' funds are especially important in VUCA conditions where surprises and shocks are frequent. Many large firms overpay dividends to shareholders, leaving them with less to ability to build cash buffers, support workers and reinvest in the business. Reserve Bank of Australia reports that over the past three decades dividend payouts have trended up to more than 80 cents of every dollar of corporate profits. In some companies, dividends payouts have exceeded 100% of profits.
- Connective: Connective is an important capacity to interlink within the existing eco-system. Preserving relations with a variety of trusted partners. Carefully thinking about which partners can add to the value creation. Another important element is co-creating collective knowledge within the eco- system. For example, the choice of multiple suppliers in different regions initially seems inefficient but is far more effective for continuity in a crisis. Many countries have suffered the effects of being too reliant on China, for example for PPE equipment.
- Diverse: Diversity in an organisation stimulates adaptability in a rapidly changing environment by enabling the organisation to tap a broader range of partners, perspectives, ideas and innovations. Diversity is also about the mix of people in an organisation. You need different perspectives when it comes to dealing with complex challenges. Philips NAT lab is a wonderful illustration of how a business consciously cultivates a diversity of ideas and innovations.
- Cooperative: An organisation flourishes when people trust and work together on the basis of a clear intention. A group must be able to quickly change direction to determine alternative pathways. When the 'intention' is clear and there’s mutual trust, teams can respond quickly and autonomously yet remain in sync. This is especially vital in a VUCA environment. Buurtzorg is a good example of an organisation that has developed this capacity flawlessly. Before the Corona crisis reached the Netherlands, health care workers mobilized quickly to source masks and other PPE care material.
By assessing and calibrating these capacities and mapping out the potential for further development, organisations can better prepare for the VUCA world and the implications for their business.
How to Use the VucaCanvas?
The VucaCanvas is designed to be a collaborative tool that can be used by teams and organisations to assess and shape the capacities they need to thrive in a VUCA world. The canvas can be used in a variety of ways, depending on the needs of the organisation.
One common approach is to use the canvas as part of a strategic planning process. This involves bringing together key stakeholders from across the organisation to discuss the current capacities and develop a strategy for further development. By using the canvas as a starting point, teams can ensure that they are taking into account all the relevant capacities and developing a plan for to become future-fit.
Another approach is to use the canvas as part of a risk management process. This involves identifying the potential risks and challenges of the organisation and developing a plan for mitigating them. By using the canvas to map out the current capacities, teams can ensure that they are taking a comprehensive approach to risk management and are not overlooking any elements.
Finally, the VucaCanvas can be used as a tool for ongoing monitoring and assessment. By revisiting the canvas on a regular basis, teams can ensure that they are staying up-to-date on the challenges and opportunities of the VUCA world and making any necessary adjustments to their strategy.
Benefits of the VucaCanvas
There are several key benefits of using the VucaCanvas as part of a development process. These include:
- Improved decision-making: By providing a comprehensive framework for understanding the VUCA world, the canvas can help teams make more informed decisions about the future development of their organisation.
- Increased collaboration: By bringing together stakeholders from across the organisation, the canvas can help to foster collaboration and ensure that everyone is aligned.
More about the origins
ChangeLabs introduced the VucaCanvas framework in 2015. Rik Berbé MSc began to incorporate evolutionary biology and social system studies into his work as an organisational development practitioner. A community of practitioners (CoP) co-created the canvases, tools, and workshop formats. Development is ongoing in collaboration with partners, practitioners, and academics.