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Leading in a VUCA world, what is old is new again…
This trendy managerial acronym has increasingly been referenced since the emergence of COVID 19 in relation to the challenges of leadership. The most effective leaders have always drawn on Vision, Understanding, Clarity, and Agility to address four distinct types of challenges: volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity in their operational environment. A recent ICMA (International City Managers Association) blog post reminded me of an HBR article from 2014 that provided insights on addressing VUCA issues in strategic planning.
In facilitating organizational workshops or coaching senior leaders that work in an environment where diverse interests, negativity and polarized perspectives can lead to community and political dysfunction there are several approaches that can help to move from:
- Volatility to Vision: Suddenly a challenge emerges, it was unexpected or the situation is unstable, with varying levels of emotional intensity. Yet, volatility is actually a more natural state than stability. Accepting this allows us to be prepared, to identify a vision, a road map with scenarios of how you will respond to change.
- Uncertainty to Understanding: So many people spend a lot of time stressing and worrying about uncertainty. One strategy is to do research, collect information, look at the drivers, examine the system to build your understanding so that you can identify structural changes that reduce uncertainty.
- Complexity to Clarity: We live in world that is increasingly interconnected and interdependent. The volume of information can be overwhelming. To understand complexity, it is important to both deepen and broaden our knowledge of shifting complex environments and cultural values. By building relationships and partnerships we can get clarity by looking at issues from multiple perspectives.
- Ambiguity to Agility: How often have you found yourself facing a decision that has more than one option? Building understanding, piloting and testing ideas builds in agility so that lessons can be applied and risks are minimized.