This VUCA World – Will we ever get control?



VUCA – the new buzz word in business – seems to fit on most days for all of us. The descriptor of a world that is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous is becoming the new norm. The idea of the acronym is that we can no longer sit back and work our 5-year strategic plan. Instead we need to operate with the assumption that things may change at any moment and we can’t necessarily predict how our actions will impact those unanticipated changes.

In order to adapt to this new paradigm, we have to reframe the conversation in our businesses. Leaders need to be adaptable and flexible, and should expect the same from their management team. It is still useful to look at a SWOT analysis, but go one step further and have a “what if” conversation with your team. Create “what if” scenarios in each element of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Talk about what will happen if you are wrong, and what might happen if the team hits it out of the park. Back in the 1980’s, I was the VP of Human Resources in a family business and we created 3 budgets each year – one we expected to meet, and then a best and worst case scenario. It took a lot of extra time, but sparked great conversation, and addressed a VUCA world we didn’t even know existed.

A really interesting framework for addressing VUCA situations is from Dr. Dale Moore, Dept of the Navy.

In his model, Dr. Moore looks at these 9 critical aspects of leading in a VUCA world:

  • Systems
  • Complexity
  • Adaptation
  • Innovation
  • Learning
  • Emergence and
  • Strategic

Check out his great visual of a tree that shows all the branches VUCA can take in business. Dealing with your human capital is a part of almost every aspect of moving your operation where it needs to be.

There are a number of VUCA situations that impact your employees and human resources systems. Consider the changes in demographics, changes in where work gets done and the technology you use today. Could you have even imaged these things 10 years ago? Way back then, we were faxing documents. Today that is virtually unheard of. Today, we have organizational systems that need to make decisions on the spot, and employees who know their next career move will likely be in another company.

Do you have the organizational structure in place to make decisions with the speed necessary? Have you empowered managers and employees to act on your behalf, or is the answer to everything “I’ll have to check”?  The business world of today often doesn’t allow for a decision tree to be considered before an answer is given. Are you empowering employees and meeting their needs so they aren’t looking for their next opportunity elsewhere?

I’d love to hear your thoughts around the VUCA world in which you live – and how you think the conversation can be meaningful in your organization.


Originally published on HR Topics blog



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