In today’s business world, change is undoubtedly inevitable. Longer-term plans have reduced from forecasting across years to months (even weeks!). This has become so apparent that the military term “VUCA” from the US Army War College now has a new meaning; rather than describing the volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world resulting from the end of the Cold War, it has emerged as a strategic concept that applies to many – if not all – organizations worldwide today.
- Volatility: Refers to the unexpectedness and instability of variables that come about and how much its effect and magnitude differs. This can be overcome by creating and endorsing a well-defined vision in your organization.
- Uncertainty: This is the unpredictability of external and internal factors that affect the teams within the organization and the goals they are attempting to reach. Basic cause and effect are usually known, however there is a lack of additional information. To overcome this, it is important to understanding the situation, communicate clearly, and an investment in research.
- Complexity: There are numerous factors (e.g., laws, regulations, policies, cultural values, national/international/multinational organizations) that interconnect and interfere with every situation, causing confusion at times. This can be countered by gaining as much clarity as possible before proceeding.
- Ambiguity: Problems cannot be solved in a yes/no manner due to the lack of complete information and clear solutions. Agility is needed to defeat the ambiguity.
Understanding the VUCA model is essential for any business to survive; the future is much less predictable now as it is becoming more difficult to use past events as guidance towards future outcomes. It is extremely important for all stakeholders involved (the organization, their employees, and clients) to be able to deal with the challenges and opportunities that come about. More specific solutions could be as follows:
- Shifting to “Personal Competencies” from “Job Competencies” (e.g., sourcing candidates who are agile, adaptive, flexible, and self-aware)
- Creating cross-functional teams
- Developing policies for managing change
- Trialing new technologies through collaboration
- Absorbing ideas and risk-taking
In the VUCA world, everything should be questioned. Questions lead to answers, which increases knowledge, builds conversation, influences others, begins relationships, stimulates creativity, and solves problems. VUCA isn’t something to try to get rid of, but rather embrace.