Strategic Planning in a VUCA World

Posted by Kristin Arnold on April 25, 2023

strategic planning and Sentient Strategy

As a professional meeting facilitator who has seen 30 years of strategy sessions and strategic documents, I was particularly pleased to read Alan Weiss’ latest book, Sentient Strategy as he focuses on strategic planning in the post-pandemic world.

For years before the pandemic, I have been encouraging my clients to think about strategic planning in this more volatile, uncertain, chaotic, and ambiguous (VUCA) world – and Weiss and I both agree that the volatility is not going away. He says,

“There are new realities we have to face, but we’d better understand that disruption, volatility, and turmoil are not singular occurrences nor merely threats to guard against. They are part of the new realities and must be used strategically as ‘offensive’ weapons of market leadership.”

Weiss posits that the old way of doing strategic planning doesn’t work anymore.

Well, yes and no.

  • While there is still a place for mission, vision, and core values – only when used correctly within an organization (that’s a truism….not new).
  • The time horizon should 12-18 months into the future (vs. 3-5 or even 10 years).
  • Making money is never the primary driver of a strategy (money is a resultant).
  • Include no more than 12 people in strategy sessions, but include as many as you can in developing the implementation plans (yep, I agree!).

I particularly liked (and will use) his list of “propelling forces” as a way to spark strategic thinking and to identify the top three strategic drivers: The list includes brand and repute; competitive distinction; customers; knowledge; intellectual property, trademarks, and patents; market needs; method of sale; method of distribution; natural resources; products and services; technology; production capability; profit and return; size and growth; and specialized, ideal customers.

Weiss also shares his “litmus test” to determine which of these factors are more important than others: speed, flexibility, disruption, volatility, and innovation. Of course, you can add others, but the point is to figure out which will enable you to leap to the next period of growth. (Weiss describes the S-Curve brilliantly!)

There are other 2×2 matrix models and ideas in the book – all of which are helpful when leading or facilitating strategy in a VUCA world. Only 100 pages, well worth taking the time to read and apply to your strategy!

Related Articles:

The Role of the Meeting Facilitator

Number of Strategic Objectives: How Many is Too Many?

Strategic Thinking Tip: Examine Events and Trends


KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF|Master has been facilitating meaningful conversations between executives and managers to make better decisions and achieve extraordinary results for 25+ years. She's a leading authority on moderating panel discussions and passionate about finding the perfect olive to complement a vodka martini.

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