VUCA

VUCA is an acronym to describe or to reflect on the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of general conditions and situations. The U.S. Army War College introduced the concept of VUCA to describe the more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous multilateral world perceived as resulting from the end of the Cold War. It has subsequently taken root in emerging ideas in strategic leadership.

The deeper meaning of each element of VUCA serves to enhance the strategic significance of VUCA foresight and insight, as well as the behaviour of groups and individuals in organisations. V = Volatility: the nature and dynamics of change, and the nature and speed of change forces and change catalysts. U = Uncertainty: the lack of predictability, the prospects for surprise, and the sense of awareness and understanding of issues and events. C = Complexity: the multiplex of forces, the confounding of issues, no cause-and-effect chain and confusion that surrounds organisation. A = Ambiguity: the haziness of reality, the potential for misreads, and the mixed meanings of conditions; cause-and-effect confusion.

These elements present the context in which organisations view their current and future state. They present boundaries for planning and policy management. They come together in ways that either confound decisions or sharpen the capacity to look ahead, plan ahead and move ahead.

From the perspective of organisational transformation, leaders must prepare strategies to lead their organisation through VUCA situations. They must learn to navigate themselves and others, to create an environment of agility, adaptability and development to withstand the pressure of constant change.

Pros

  • Leaders who are proactive in strategic planning can enable their organisations to pre-empt VUCA situations.
  • Leaders who encourage their organisation to learn from mistakes create the conditions for their people to recover from setbacks and look for ways forward.

Cons

  • Organisations must make significant investments in technology to aid collaboration and enable their people in the stormy VUCA environment.

Recommended resources:

VUCA Tools for a VUCA World: Developing Leaders and Teams for Sustainable Results, Deaton Ann V., 2018, ISBN 978-0692074947

Values

Organisational values drive the way people influence, how they interact with each other, and how they work together to achieve results. Organisational values are not descriptions of the work they do or the strategies they employ to accomplish their mission. They are the unseen drivers of behaviour, based on deeply held beliefs that drive decision-making. The collective behaviours of all employees become the organisational culture – “the way we do things around here”.

This promise lies at the core of the organisation’s brand, the essence of its identity, and must be fulfilled by employees.  Those employees who actively fulfil that brand promise, by embracing and living out the organisational values, are the true brand ambassadors. The relative number of brand ambassadors in any organisation is an important indicator of organisational health

Poor alignment between the values of an organisation and the personal values of their employees, translates directly into poor performance. This, in turn, impacts negatively on the quality of deliverables – and the organisation’s financial performance. Conversely, when the values of the organisation are aligned with the personal values of employees, the result will be a high-performance environment with high levels of employee engagement and the pursuit of excellence for the benefit of the organisation.

Most organisations have identified values but for many, they are restricted to wall plaques and induction handbooks, far from the hearts of employees. This disconnect points to leaders who are not empowered to model the values through decision-making and behaviour.

From the perspective of organisational transformation, leaders must create platforms and the room for their teams to make the connection between the organisation’s values and their personal values. This is imperative if leaders want to ensure that their team is able to adjust to the new situation and the changes in what is expected of them.

Pros

  • A strong personal connection to the values of the organisation increases the ability to make faster and better decision aligned to the ethos of the organisation at all levels.
  • Values-based leadership increases the authenticity of leaders and inspires teams to go above and beyond, particularly in times of change.

Cons

  • Many organisational cultures evolve in a haphazard way. Consciously creating a specific culture requires effort and the continuous focus of the leaders.
  • Investments (time and money) must be made to develop the mindset, skills and tools to create a values-based leadership culture.

Recommended resources:

Becoming the Best: Build a World-Class Organization Through Values-Based Leadership, Kraemer Harry M. Jr., 2015, ISBN 978-1118999424

Let’s have a coffee and talk about what’s happening in your organisation right now!