Assessing the “A” in VUCA

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The “A” in VUCA stands for ambiguity. It’s essential to not confuse ambiguity for complexity – in fact, it could mean quite the contrary. While complicated settings require multiple approaches with detailed tasks, ambiguity refers to a situation open to interpretation. In other words, there is no right answer, and decision-makers can use that to their advantage. 

Issues arise when decision-makers become reliant on fixed steps and procedures such as SOPs that leave no room for alternatives or impromptu action. In a VUCA environment, organisational leaders cannot depend on rigid or one-dimensional solutions and guidelines that dissipate with increasing uncertainty. 

Overcome Decision Paralysis 

Rather than settling for a yes or no (binary) answer, leaders should always consider a diversity of options. Brainstorming with employees can open new developments, possibilities, and solutions for precarious and seemingly irremediable scenarios. 

Leaders should seize the VUCA environment as an opportunity to explore innovative and more effective ways to fulfill tasks. It is advantageous to long-term positive workplace culture to involve employees in the decision-making process and acknowledging individual contributions to the company. 

Replace One-size-fits-All Solutions 

Ambiguity becomes a problem when leaders adamantly seek a model or textbook solution in a rapidly shifting VUCA situation. In Susan Jeffers’ seminal book, “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway,” she shares that there is no wrong decision as every path provides valuable lessons and growth potential. 

Rather than settling for the “perfect” answer, leaders and their teams should assume a creative and enthusiastic approach to problem-solving.  Coping with a shapeless VUCA world requires a versatile mindset. 

Leaders should entertain the possibilities of implementing multiple solutions while posing logical yet optimistic questions, such as “What’s the best thing that could happen with this decision?” or  “How can we make this concept work with minimal error?” Teams should consider the best possible scenario (as opposed to the worst) and progress towards them. 

When it comes to implementation success, business strategy advisor Marco Marcesti recommends the PIKE model, where team members first decide on an approach and gradually nurture the belief into being. 

A Willingness to Make Mistakes

The inexactness in ambiguity means that some decisions will go awry, and leaders should accept that as an inevitable part of the process. “Mistakes” or miscalculations should provide organisations with valuable insights toward making the next big estimation and not stifle progress.  

In a VUCA world, practices and beliefs go beyond black and white, with many grey areas to navigate at each juncture. The risk-taking approach may seem overwhelming and counterintuitive for leaders subscribed to a fixed view and style. Still, it remains necessary in making critical decisions with the brevity of data predicators. 

Leaders need to identify their perceived limitations with added awareness, involve all hands on deck, and take a brave step forward without over-analyzing the details. Ambiguity seems like a challenging or impossible notion. Still, the paradox lies in the fact that there is no set answer – and that enables pragmatic leaders to take their teams to unchartered heights. 

A VUCA world presents huge challenges for both leaders and employees, forcing us to be prepared to deal with constant evolution and change. StrengthsAsia has helped many individuals and corporate clients continue to survive and thrive by enabling breakthrough experiences for leaders, teams and organisations. If you wish to learn more about the Strengths Leadership Program, please reach out to us here.

A devotee at the altar of language and a celebrant of expression. Laurenzo has written for various SMEs, MNCs, startups and international brands over the last three years. He specializes in topics of psychology, lifestyle, employee management, and digital trends.

Maalikka is the latest addition to StrengthsAsia’s team of marketing and content extraordinaries. As an avid reader, writer and learner, she’s always on the lookout for new information online or interesting conversations to inspire her. Her other passions include gaming, Netflix and cats.

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