How Are You Dealing With the VUCAs?

In the 7th edition of The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner address the VUCAs (page 213) under the practice of Enabling Others to Act. I first encountered the term VUCA while attending an educator’s boot camp at Paris Island MCRD in 2013.

Back in the 1990’s, the military added the acronym, VUCA to its vocabulary. VUCA stands for:

Volatility – change is coming at a faster pace and dealing with transition can be messy.

Uncertainty – our ability to predict the future is becoming less meaningful and trustworthy.

Complexity – is increasing including knowledge, communication channels, and distraction leading to increased confusion (Note: I believe the C should include Chaos and Confusion, as misinformation and disinformation are a norm in our society.)

Ambiguity – made up of assumptions, poor communications, fuzzy rules, and false readings leading to fog.

VUCA is code for acknowledging the root cause of stress, frustration, indecisiveness, bad behavior, poor performance, weak execution, short outcomes, and incomplete strategic plans.

As VUCA’s come upon us, the cry becomes, “I/we don’t have enough ___________!” Blame-storming ensues. Shortcuts are taken. Ethics are ignored. Greed increases.

What do you do to minimize, reduce, or eliminate VUCAs?

Make time. The time issue always becomes apparent when working with a group during an experience-based initiative. The initiative that includes a time allotment, creates stress, generates anxiety, and becomes an enemy to positive outcomes. Make time an ally! Use your resources more effectively by breaking groups into smaller groups to flush out fresh, unique ideas. Do not be quick to throw water on an idea that goes against your thinking or the current process. Instead of a “Yes, but…” try a “Yes, and…”

I notice most organizations or teams (as well as individuals) who go through a strategic planning process seldom discuss the “what ifs’…” as in:

  • What if a key member(s) of the team leaves or dies?
  • What if a natural disaster hits like a hurricane, tornado, or wildfire?
  • What if served with a lawsuit?
  • What if the economy tanks?
  • What if ___________________?

Simplify. Simplify stuff. Simply processes. Simplify lifestyles.

Lean into flexibility. The tree that bends in the wind will survive over the tree that is stiff and rigid.

When you go out into the world, will you watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together?

This blog was originally written in December 2011 and has been updated. This blog was posted on LinkedIn on Friday, September 15, 2023. Jim Kouzes comment: