Working in a VUCA Environment Part 4

It is inevitable that in our fast-paced, global, interlinking economy, we face constant challenges in the way that we do business.  We face changes in conditions, attitudes and influences and a shift in pressure and expectations clients put upon us, whilst at the same time trying to manage and balance the needs of our shareholders and employees.

But how do we best rise to these modern challenges? Well, by adapting and responding to working in a modern environment. A modern “VUCA” environment. VUCA you ask? Yes, VUCA.

A term first popularised by the US military in the 1990s, VUCA has steadily made its way into our modern business vocabulary over the last decade. It stands for:

V – Volatility

U – Uncertainty

C – Complexity

A - Ambiguity

Its usage applies principally to ideas of strategic leadership and how understanding the VUCA environment can have a positive impact on the business decisions we make. From decision making and forward planning to risk management and problem solving, no matter the size or nature of a business, we are all working in a VUCA environment.

Let’s delve a little deeper and look at what we mean by V, U, C and A.

This MonthAmbiguity

Ambiguity is closely linked to complexity. It suggests a lack of precision and confusion as to the meaning of something brought about by the multitude of issues facing us. It means we cannot necessarily see or understand the problems facing us, and even if we can, the solution isn’t clear.

Using Brexit as our example again (it’s the gift that just keeps on giving), it has never been as simple as a right or wrong vote or a good or bad decision, despite our own individual political beliefs. There is a much deeper level of ambiguity. Questions we might find ourselves and our businesses facing include:

  • Is it business as usual or do we need to do something different?
  • Are we looking to achieve something or are we aiming to avoid a scenario?
  • Should we hope to at least maintain a status-quo, or should we be looking to drive our business forward?
  • Do we move forward with what we know now, or do we try to predict the challenges we face a year or two down the line (which frankly is anyone’s guess)?

Ambiguity can make it very difficult to make strategic and longer term business decisions, particularly if that ambiguity leads to conflicting priorities between decision makers: some may feel their primary focus right now should be on crisis management rather than business planning, whilst others feel they cannot afford to freeze their business plans and wait for the uncertainty to pass.

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