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  • Writer's pictureMark Dickinson

The Importance of Planning in a VUCA World

While the concept of a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world arose in the late eighties, it has never been more relevant than it is today, as Mark Dickinson, founder of DONE! Hospitality Training Solutions, explains.

Let’s pretend that we can turn the clock back three years. Who was prepared for the global chaos that has ensued since? If you were to ask every business leader at that time if they had a disaster plan for their organization, most of them would have said no. Today, I would ask the same question: Do you have a disaster plan for your organization? Yes? Not yet? Well, you must!


VUCA paints the world as a volatile place, which today it most certainly is. A Tweet or an Instagram post inappropriately shared can create untold mayhem. Volatility is similar to a person sitting on a pile of gunpowder and casually lighting a cigarette: it will go off and the consequences will be disastrous. The world is gunpowder, and we are not in control of who has the lighter. Volatility means that entire industries can disappear overnight, and companies that are balanced on a tight cash flow edge can instantly fold, creating fear. A great disaster plan will thus remove the element of fear


Uncertainly has always been a component in doing business, and in isolation it is neither good nor bad: it just is. Uncertainty is risk. Should we or should we not? We eliminate uncertainty by preparing good plans, and we mitigate the risk through long-term strategy and creating contingencies.


Complexity is an interesting one; you can either embrace it or be victim to it. Embracing complexity means that you seek to understand it and to draw the growth of available technology and digital advances into your business. Those who own and operate large organizations are well versed in the way their businesses work and frequently become entrenched in doing business the way they have always done it. It is essential that these owners and leaders analyze the complexities and simplify the way business is run. Concentrating on clients’ needs simplifies, while focusing on organizational goals complicates. Complexity is the result of growth and expansion; simplicity is the result of design. By planning with the objective of pleasing customers and eliminating what does not do that, you are removing complexity from the equation.


Ambiguity is all about biting off more than you can chew, trying to put the square peg into the round hole. Yes, there are always the clever answers to these statements, and there are always those who will seek to appear bigger than they are, more capable than they are and smarter than they are. These are fatal flaws of character and create ambiguity. These traits of ambiguity can be eliminated by having solid structures, great communication channels that are clearly defined and reasonably respected, and an exceptional authority matrix that allows those in authority the power to take effective decisions without constantly being challenged

The antidote to VUCA To ensure your organization is run by an outstanding structure that will stand the challenges that we face in a VUCA world, have:

• A disaster plan (within the limits of your capacity to build one)

• A strategic plan for the long term (five to 10 years from now)

• A customer-focused organization dedicated to embracing technology

• An exceptional organizational communication structure and authority matrix

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