VUCA

How will you navigate another VUCA year?

Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA) are common words used by organisations to describe market challenges.

As we think about the modern global business environment, the digital revolution is restructuring the way we live, work, communicate and think. Web 2.0 is already obsolete, clouding is the new standard and it's extremely hard to predict what will be the next big thing.

Whilst most global economies are successfully recovering from the 2008 crisis, the oil price is crashing and the global scenario has rapidly changed. It's hard to predict if we'll see a new financial crisis or a positive growth in the next few years; or indeed, what the reaction will be within those countries with an economy based on oil and gas.

At the same time, worrying scenarios around environmental sustainability are discussed by governments, levels of CO2 are increasing in the atmosphere, polar ice is melting and global warming itself is following unpredictable patterns.

These are only few examples of VUCA events that are shaking our markets, our organisations and our lives. All of these events have an impact on motivation, priorities, values, emotions and the business decisions of people working in the corporate world.

A recent trend in the L&D world is the identification of the right leaders who are capable of “managing” VUCA. The focus of this research is on the right kind of person, and there are discussions on how to assess, recruit, train, and retain these change champions.

In our view, however, this is a well-worn path and an old way of approaching a new problem.

If the global environment is impacting aggressively on the business world, why should we only focus on the figure, the personal skillset, and not on the background - the context in which our leaders are operating?

Impact began a global research project in early 2014 to develop a VUCA Questionnaire, a tool to explore people’s reactions to the business context in which they are working. Its' aim was to understand how leaders perceive the pressure from the market, the effects provoked by sudden and drastic changes, the impact on personal motivation and how this pressure changes their perceptions and decisions. It's a situational diagnostic that explores the present and triangulates perceptions from different stakeholders to map what’s going on in an organisation.

To grasp the nature of VUCA we need to change the way we use diagnostics. Assessment reports - profiles that aim to consistently predict future behaviours and personality tests measuring natural preferences that don't change over time - simply don’t speak the VUCA language.

If we want to understand how VUCA is impacting us and our organisations, we need to concentrate on the volatile, situational present. Every VUCA situation is different, so achieving a deeper understanding of each, will allow us to navigate future VUCA challenges with confidence.

The VUCA Questionnaire represents a new approach to diagnostics. We are pioneering a situational tool to embrace the unpredictability of our times, with the intention of re-framing mindsets and mapping the pressures people perceive in their working environment.