Sometimes people speak about “the new normal” as if it’s a static state that we will transition to, and then live with for a while. Not true. The rate of technological change – with inevitable consequences for our organizations and social structures – continues to accelerate.
The US military developed the concept of VUCA:
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 and the chaos and confusion that surround an organization.
A = Ambiguity. The haziness of reality, the potential for misreads, and the mixed meanings of conditions; cause-and-effect confusion.
We’re living in a VUCA world now and will be for the foreseeable future. VUCA spans all our leadership work. VUCA complicates our decisions. VUCA requires us to think about tempo, momentum, and agility. VUCA erodes the ground that we might have thought safe. VUCA gives us new opportunities that were simply unavailable a short time ago.
There are four things necessary to thrive as a leader in a VUCA world:
- Clarity of thinking and communication
- Purposefulness (meaning, the work has high value beyond a paycheck)
All four have something in common: you can’t buy them. They’re difficult to measure, but all agree on their value. You can’t operate on any of them directly; they are byproducts of things we do and say, and our experiences working with one another.
So how do you thrive in a VUCA world? You first accept that this is the “new normal” and stop acting surprised by VUCA environments — and certainly no complaining! Next, you keep working at the little and big things about leading people and managing projects well. Reframe your thinking; this is an adventure! The secret to thriving in a VUCA world is to recognize that people haven’t fundamentally changed in thousands of years but our environments have been transformed.
I challenge you to daily ask and answer these types of questions:
- What can I do to serve people well?
- What can I communicate today to someone to increase their clarity?
- Where do I need to think carefully and deeply?
- How can I use rituals and rhythms to improve my self-confidence, so others will benefit indirectly?
You’re on the VUCA ride whether you believe it or not. Thriving leadership requires recognizing it and working with VUCA as a reality.