The Website and Blog of HR Author and Speaker Lori Kleiman

Getting Control of the VUCA World: Volatile, Uncertain, Ambiguous and Complex

VUCA - feature image

VUCA has become an interesting buzz word in the business world. We all live it, but do you really understand what it is all about?

VUCA stands for a volatile, uncertain, ambiguous and complex. Is there anyone who cannot say that some part of their life touches on these issues?  Whether it is your ever-changing business or dealing with multiple generations (at work and home!), we all have some level of VUCA during any given week.

vuca world - uncertainty

The world at large is ever-changing, and our organizations and employees are doing all they can to keep up.  The days of going off to a strategic planning retreat, planning a 5-year vision and executing it are gone. We now operate in a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) on a regular basis.

What do you as the HR leader, business owner or manager have to do to adapt to this new and ever-changing world?

When we look at the VUCA situation before us, there is a combination of two factors. First is the amount of data we have at our disposal. The second is the complexity of the landscape in the future.  By understanding the relationship between data and prediction, you can tackle the situation with some tools that will define a more certain outcome. This chart depicts how you can approach each situation to understand which element of VUCA is at play.

VUCA flow

 

Much of the initial VUCA literature came out of the military.  The SCAILES framework was presented by By Dr. Dale L. Moore, Dept. of the Navy.  He defines seven tools that will help leaders operate efficiently in a VUCA world. Specific tactics for leadership in a VUCA environment are also shared by US Army Colonel Eric Kail.  Essentially, literature and the studies from these two sources encourages leaders to think about the bigger business picture than just the issue in front of you.  If you feel that your business is in a continual VUCA spin, consider some of these tips:

  • Constant scanning of industry
  • Allowing multiple solutions to one issue simultaneously
  • Empowering your workforce to try new solutions
  • Innovation as a culture of your business
  • Celebrating failures as a learning opportunity
  • Lifelong learning
  • Organizational structure that gives power throughout the team

Innovation is no longer a hot idea to solve our current problem. The entire team has to be on the lookout for faster and better ways to tackle issues and meet customer demands.  Often it is about what seems like the craziest idea, something we have never heard of before and what we think we want to do for the future.

The idea of learning is changing at all levels of the organization.  Employees want programs that are much more experiential and access to leaders and meaning of their position. Regardless of the role in the organization, employees need to understand your strategy relating to their job and where you want to be so they can be aligned with the plan.

vuca - align your team to achieve organizational goals hr

The solution to operating in a VUCA world is to have a team that is aligned and will make decisions that lead you towards critical organizational goals. To accomplish this, you must have a professional leader who is open and shares with the entire time.  You want employees that are strategically positioned, understand your culture and how you need to impact change.

Managing in a VUCA world is becoming critical to how we approach human capital management, and you have got to be that person that integrates technology and media into what you are doing today and every day.

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