The term VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) has been around for quite a while – over three decades to be precise. But its relevance has never been felt and experienced as much as it is today. The VUCA world with an impact and of the level of COVID-19 pandemic has never appeared earlier. If you compare the effects of the pandemic on the lives of the billions of people around the world with what other tragedies like the financial meltdown of 2008 brought about, you will find that no other tragedy can compare to the one the world is experiencing today.
The number of lives lost and affected, the scale of the pandemic, the economic uncertainty, and the employment crisis of this quantum has never been experienced by people in their lifetimes. What the world needs now is VUCA leadership to not only understand the extent of the damage and danger but also devise possible solutions or ways out of it. The challenges thrown in by the global pandemic match with the characteristics of a VUCA situation.
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- Volatility: The world seems to be on the verge of a collapse. No other tragedy has been able to send the world reeling like this pandemic.
- Uncertainty: There is uncertainty around everything – Jobs, economy, and lives. And no one has a confident answer regarding the end of the pandemic or the formulation of a vaccine.
- Complexity: The most complex thing about the pandemic and its effects is that there was little information about it before it hit us. The world is learning from experience; a priceless experience with human lives.
- Ambiguity: There are no specific guidelines available for businesses and individuals to stop the spread and manage its effects.
VUCA leadership during uncertain times
Businesses all over the world are dealing with uncertainties, likes of which they haven’t experienced before. This is putting extraordinary pressure on the leadership to come with answers. The VUCA leadership model is the need of the hour. The time the crisis will be around and the extent of its impact are things that are unclear. VUCA leadership can help businesses to come out stronger from this crisis by helping them to strike a balance between calculated immediate actions and short to medium term strategic efforts. Thinking too far ahead in the future is not advisable.
The current VUCA situation needs leaders to cut through the clamour. They need to focus on identifying and addressing the most important issues at hand. VUCA management will allow leaders to keep sight of the bigger picture to avoid making decisions that could have adverse consequences in the long run.
VUCA leadership can help leaders to focus on innovation, resilience, and perseverance more than they have done at any other time. It can perhaps provide the leaders with the drive that they need to re-envision their business – embrace what works and abandon what doesn’t.
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- “Learning from the Future” by J. Peter Scoblic in July-August 2020 issue of Emerging from the Crisis (Harvard Business Review)
- “Dealing with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity in a Covid-19 environment” by Stan Silverman on June 8, 2020