A tool to help you read and thrive in the waters of permanent change

Permanent whitewater is the new normal. In a relentlessly changing environment, the complexity of problems is increasing faster than our ability to solve them.


Trying to play catch up breaks people down and burns them out.


Whitewater creates unexpected undercurrents, but also pose unforeseen opportunities. 


This tool will help you assess and navigate its perpetually changing nature.



The Permanent Whitewater Canvas is a tool to assess the challenges created by the forces of change––both internal and external. 

This team activity will help assess why and how your team or organization needs to adapt. 

The purpose is to develop a bold action plan with a long-term perspective but focusing on what you can affect today. 

To thrive in permanent whitewater requires understanding, adaptability, and flexibility.


Lead in permanent whitewater canvas




Use post-its to capture individual thoughts and add them to the canvas. At the end of each part, consolidate/ cluster the key ideas. 


1. Start:

Begin by assessing the reality of your organization or team.

What’s our current status, honestly?

Be specific and objective.

Describe the present status consider aspects such as:

  • Strategic direction: strength, clarity, alignment
  • Technology and resources
  • Organizational culture
  • Team performance: composition, dynamics, issues

2. Whitewater

Identify external and internal forces that (will) require the organization to transform. 

What is happening that demands adaptation?

e.g., new competitors entering the market, consumers looking for always-on customer services, commoditization of services, etc.


3. Obstacles

Permanent whitewater creates threats––some are visible, but most are not.

What could prevent the company from achieving its goals?

What’s at stake if the organization does not adapt?

How can our competitors put yout company out of business?

Prioritize obstacles before moving into the next section.


4. Bold Steps

Brainstorm possible solutions. Be bold and ambitious. Don’t let the constraints limit your ideas.

Start by identifying where you want to see your team or organization in a year from now. 


5. What’s Possible Today?

Based on your current situation, what’s seem possible and achievable now?

The purpose of this part is not to lower expectations but rather move your team into action. Instead of getting stuck designing the perfect future, how can you make a difference today?

Can you implement certain changes to speed up the launch of an initiative that is stuck? What projects or tasks can you let go of, so the team can focus on more important ones?

Finish this section by identifying a short-term yet ambitious goal.

Now, define the actions and activities that the team must implement:

  • Next week
  • Next month
  • Next quarter

Establishing concrete, measurable steps will help you move forward but also leave room to adapt to unexpected changes. 

Download a high res copy of the template here.


Coaching Tips

Participation is vital to clearly assess the challenge and design solutions  ––all voices must be included. 

The first time you use this canvas, address the overall situation of either your team or organization. 

In future sessions, focus on one specific area (e.g., decision-making or culture) and, this time,  go deeper 


Additional Resources

Article: How to Lead in Permanent Whitewater

Workshop: Lead Your Team in Permanent Whitewater