Message from Julie: Navigating a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous World 

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Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous (VUCA) – that certainly describes the world we are living in today 

Prior to the shutdown brought about by the pandemic, it sometimes seemed to me that the world was spinning out of control. The shutdown slowed the spinning a bit. Then as things have started reopening, I have had the sense that the world was wobbling on its axis making it a little difficult to navigate the journey forward. At least the high velocity spin mostly held things in place. 

According to a quick Google search, the concept of VUCA was first introduced by the U.S. Army in the 1990s to describe the post-Cold War worldAnd since that time the world has become even more VUCA. 

“Disruption is as great as we have ever seen it,” says Joe DePinto, CEO of 7-Eleven. “We are seeing all aspects of VUCA.” That is a quote in Chief Executive from May of 2018. My thought when I read this: He had no idea how much more VUCA our world would become in the next two years – none of us did.    

So how do we counter the ever-increasing levels of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity 

The answer, according to Bob Johansen from the Institute of the Future: Vision,Understanding, Clarity, and Agility. 

Counter Volatility with Vision: 

It is important to have a clear vision of where we want to go, even if we can’t currently see exactly how to get there. Vision serves as a guiding star when we encounter pot holes, road blocks and detours.  

Reduce Uncertainty through Understanding: 

The more we can understand about a situation the less uncertainty we experience.  

Transform Complexity into Clarity 

Clarity comes from taking complex situations and “chunking down”.  Chunking down is a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) concept that is used to get more specific, fill in missing information, or gain greater clarity around a complex concept. For example,developing a detailed plan with all the steps necessary to achieve your five-year vision is quite complex. You can though Identify the next three steps you need to take towards your vision with a higher degree of clarity.  

Fight Ambiguity with Agility 

A high level of ambiguity means the future contains a variety of potential alternatives. Agility is required to be able to adapt twhichever alternative emerges.  

According to Johansen all this boils down to being very clear about where you are going and very flexible about how you yet there.  

How are you as a leader developing greater vision, understanding, clarity and agility? How are you helping your team develop these skills? 

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Julie Chance 

POSTED ON: Dealing with Conflict, Leadership, Strategy and Vision
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