The Challenge of a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous World
VUCA describes the conditions in which our everyday business decisions are often made. Originating within the military to make sense of the world after the end of the Cold War, it’s now used by a wide range of organisations – from government and education to business and NGO’s.
VUCA sets out four distinct types of challenges that demand four distinct types of responses –
- Volatility —The nature, speed, volume, magnitude, and dynamics of change
- Uncertainty —The lack of predictability of issues and events and the prospect for surprise
- Complexity —The forces, issues and confusion that surrounds any organisation
- Ambiguity —The haziness of reality and the mixed meanings of conditions
Whilst none of us is really in control of our environment, most of us are working hard to anticipate the changing conditions of our business. However the recent results of the EU Referendum in the UK and the political fallout that followed, demonstrates more than ever, that we are affected by a multitude of forces outside our control.
We’re reminded of Donald Rumsfeld’s infamous attempt to define this –
“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”
Responding to the Challenge
However VUCA can provide us with language for understanding these conditions. It can help us to approach the environment we’re in, with all it’s challenges and to recognise the opportunities. Over the course of this series we’ll be unpacking this and considering the skills and approaches we can develop in response. So that even whilst we’re acknowledging the unknowns, we can anticipate the complexities and uncertainty of what might be to come.
It’s our work, using music as a metaphor for business, which helps people to take advantage of that environment, to seize the opportunity, and equip them to act decisively, getting the best out of themselves and their teams. So that they aren’t approaching the challenges they’re facing out of ignorance or fear – however volatile or ambiguous they are – but using them as a springboard to move forward.
We often work with organisations facing anticipated change and much of our work is about enabling individuals and organisations to manage change, whether it’s anticipated or not. We find creative solutions that help teams express how they feel about change, and allow them to develop a greater understanding of how they can work together more effectively within that environment. As a result we’ve seen people embrace change, quickly and more effectively, leading to increased engagement and greater productivity.