+44 (0) 7983 590555 steven@stevenpaul.info

Can your organisation survive in today’s Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) landscape?

An acronym developed by the US military following the Soviet Union collapse, VUCA has evolved to reflect the speed of change, unpredictability of outcome, vastness of interdependency, and multitude of options and outcomes brought on by the political, economic, cultural and environmental challenges facing today’s world.

Your organisation’s ability to survive and thrive within a VUCA environment is heavily driven by the capability of your workforce. Senior business leaders are becoming increasingly aware that they need to effect a people transformation, bringing change not only to business strategy, but to execution and working style as well.

Here are my thoughts on how to capitalise on the opportunities and neutralise the threats of a toxic VUCA environment.

You’re either disrupting the industry or being disrupted.

Most leaders describe themselves as visionary, but how many are able to respond tactically to large change in their industry?

Treat change as a constant. This might sound paradoxical, but if you view change as an ongoing opportunity, you are much more likely to be an instigator rather than a responder. Keep your eye on quickly developing themes and trends, and ensure your leadership team are equally as engaged.

In times of volatility, human relationships are critical. Business leaders need to focus on ensuring positive and powerful communication with their teams and between their teams. People love creating things together – use industry volatility to inspire your teams to rise to the challenge.

Uncertainty doesn’t change the overall vision of your business.

We all know the importance of the bigger picture and whilst a VUCA landscape might affect the path you take to get there, ensuring that your people are clear on your organisation’s goals strips away a level of uncertainty.

So does making informed decisions – focus on what you do know rather than what is uncertain, and ensure your decisions are clear and communicated appropriately across the workforce. In short, create certainty where you can for your workforce.

Of course, this doesn’t negate the need for vigilant market scanning, intelligence gathering and scenario planning. Neither does it detract from the need for a constant focus on innovation, by bringing in top industry talent, and connecting with disruptors and mentors so that you’re ready to flex and respond when necessary.

Critical Thinking vs Cognitive Readiness

A traditional critical mindset includes a strong focus on strategic thinking, creative thinking, problem-solving and decision-making. Whilst these are still important skills to foster within your workforce, cognitive readiness – with its emphasis on non-rational and non-logical skill sets – is equally as important. It’s these abilities that prepare individuals for uncertainty and complexity.

By ensuring your teams are mentally and emotionally ready for being uncomfortable, your workplace will be much better prepared to make decisions, manage change and handle crises. Consider mindsets like design thinking, systems thinking and complexity management to support the development of your staff.

Leadership is ensuring your team wins together

Collaboration, support and sharing knowledge should be at the top of your priorities. Encourage networks as opposed to traditional hierarchies, leverage diversity and its multiple levels of point of view and experience, and ensure continued focus on employee engagement – provide a strategy and framework which gives comfort and a freedom and trust, which inspires innovation and development.