Robservation 26 – Managing VUCA

A term we have heard a lot of lately in business, and in life that describes our current times is VUCA. It stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. I think we can all agree that whether we are staying at home or essential workers on the front lines, these four terms in the aggregate pretty well describe what we are living through

My Robservation is that much of what I have read and heard on VUCA describes what it is, and tells leaders to be careful and pay attention to it (sound familiar?). What I would like to do is give leaders some real actions they can take with intentionality to help manage VUCA at the workforce level. My simple way to look at VUCA at the TASK level is:

Volatility – The dynamics or speed of changes

Uncertainty – The size or unpredictability of changes

Complexity – The number of changes

Ambiguity – The vagueness of changes

Rather than looking at this phenomenon from the broader organizational perspective, let’s look at it from a task-based perspective and talk about how leaders can engage in determining how they can help manage VUCA at the field level. That is, after all, where people get hurt, maimed, or killed.

As you go out to engage your workforce, learn to ask a few questions that can help you understand what they need in this (or any) VUCA environment. Remember that each of the elements of VUCA impacts each individual in ways that are fairly predictable based on their personality tendencies. Also, the VUCA environment creates predictable TRAPS that we have known about for years. Rather than trying to focus on just the macro of the VUCA environment, help people focus on the triggers that tell them a trap exists, so that they can manage it at the task level as much as possible. Help them understand that you, as a leader, want to help them where you can to manage VUCA.

Some simple conversation starters may include:

V – What can we, as leaders, do to help you manage the speed at which changes are happening here in your work environment or tasks?

U – How can we help you identify and manage the size or unpredictability of the changes?

C – What can we do to reduce the number of changes impacting your job or task on a daily basis?

A – How can we be more precise in what we need from you at the job and task level?

You can use the WITH model to help put things in perspective – Work Environment, Individual Capabilities and how they match or mismatch Task Demands, and Human Nature (those characteristics of humans in general that make them prone to error on this task at this time).

Remember, this isn’t about data collection. It is about getting information from the workforce that will assist leaders in their goal of intentional leadership and to provide information on what they can DO to help people through the current chaotic and VUCA times.

Have conversations amongst yourselves as leaders and your workforce on how to effectively manage that which you cannot control or remove – VUCA and remember, Intentional Leadership starts with YOU.