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A counter to….VUCA

During the week I attended a workshop on the 4th Industrial revolution.   It was a very interesting and challenging 2 hours at the Chamber.

The presenter mentioned a term I had just read and encountered a few weeks earlier. The term?  That of VUCA.

VUCA is an acronym that stands for, “Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity”.   VUCA is a concept borrowed from the U.S. Military War College, and has been circulating as a trend in HR and OD circles for some time. Here is a definition of each:

  • Volatility – the nature, dynamics and speed of change – things are happening fast and in unpredictable and non-repeatable ways
  • Uncertainty – the lack of predictability and likelihood of surprise – the past is not an accurate predictor of the future
  • Complexity – the multiple forces, chaos and confusion – there are so many factors involved it’s difficult to know what affects what
  • Ambiguity – the fuzziness of reality, potential for misreads, and cause and effect confusion – who, what, when, where, how and why is unclear

Learning to deal with “change” in a VUCA world takes on a whole new meaning. It requires us to become comfortable with volatility and uncertainty, to navigate through complexity, to deal with ambiguity. Consequently, the skills that got many of us to our current level of success will be wholly inadequate to keep the momentum going. This is not a future vision of some distant threat or opportunity. It is reality today.

What an apt description for the environment that entrepreneurs and leaders operate in!

The environment of VUCA won’t go away but rather requires that we adapt and adjust quickly.

In his series of blogs, the late former US Army Colonel Eric Kail, outlined adaptive leadership tactics for operating in a VUCA world. I suggest that these tactics can be adopted by intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs alike.  Perhaps they can be tailored and applied to your situation. In each of these situations, courageous leadership can navigate a different tack.

For Volatile Situations

  • Communicate clearly
  • Ensure that your intent is understood

For Uncertain Situations

  • Get a fresh perspective
  • Be flexible

For Complex Situations

  • Develop collaborative leaders
  • Stop seeking permanent solutions

For Ambiguous Situations

  • Listen well
  • Think divergently
  • Set up incremental dividends

I understand that another take on VUCA is “Vision; Understanding; Clarity and Agility”.

Here’s to leaders and entrepreneurs who display more vision, understanding, clarity and agility to counter the VUCA of their world!

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