It is easy to interpret VUCA as a condition that strictly affronts the present. In truth, VUCA also affects our past and future. While one recognisable characteristic of a VUCA world is that there are no real answers and everything remains open to conjecture, the VUCA concept seems to drive some semblance of knowledge that influences our future decisions.
At its core, VUCA prompts leaders to brace themselves against the unexpected. Although there is no knowing what might eventually occur in the future (how events and crises play out in specific order or magnitude), past VUCA episodes reduce the fear of uncertainty. And that notion denotes VUCA knowledge implemented across time.
What we make of VUCA in the past affects how we cope now and how we deal with subsequent episodes. The COVID-19 pandemic is an example of a VUCA scenario, where leaders may infer (past), respond (present), and plan (future) for improved organisational outcomes.
VUCA in COVID-19 – The Past
When the WHO declared COVID-19 as a pandemic, the world (and economy) shook. Organisational leaders expected the disruption of communication, but few knew how to react toward such a scale. There was a lack of technological know-how and coordination across the board.
Additionally, there were novel initiatives mandated by law – such as the wearing of masks, routine temperature checks, safe entry scans, air travel bans, and staff rotation. Put them all together, and you get the volatility in VUCA – sudden, rapid, and large-scale change.
Organisations observed these changes, went through the motions, and suffered financial losses. It was inevitable. Few to none business plans foresaw a pandemic in modern times.
VUCA in COVID-19 – The Present
More than a year passed since the initial wave of COVID terror. The New Normal arose, with organisational leaders adapting to a more digital and remote climate. As a result, there’s a spike in demand for communication software and remote data storage (AKA the cloud).
Additionally, managed services grew in popularity as organisations seek to sustain operations with lower overhead costs. Technological breakthroughs and developments in fields like AI and IoT provide additional support in the strange new landscape.
Flexible organisations modify their SOPs according to the changes witnessed in the VUCA past. But above all else, the speed of adaptation matters, and many companies failed to keep up with the current VUCA demands.
VUCA in COVID-19 – The Future
Visionary leaders (primary figures in a VUCA world) and decision-makers have prepared three-year, five-year plans, and so on, based on predicted VUCA scenarios based on past observations.
Groups like the FEC (Future Economy Council) and McKinsey & Company forecast glimpses into the future with an assessment of past and current VUCA scenarios. That’s how experts come up with figures like “1 in 16 workers may need to seek new employment by 2030”, or “the end of 2021 sees an approach of very much some degree of normality that is close to where we were before.”
In fact, VUCA brings uncertainty (its “U”), but we tend to assess past VUCA episodes for patterns that shape the future.
Conclusion – VUCA as a Tricky Compass for Change and Progress
The present forces organisational leaders to act now due to the immediacy of problems. Yet, VUCA solutions stem mainly from the past by responding to an earlier episode’s initial shock factor. Similarly, decision-makers should not exclusively focus VUCA solutions on the present but instead apply them as future response guidelines.
VUCA directives need to be spontaneous for maximum effect. Leaders will remain a step ahead or behind unless they respond according to the present VUCA world (not the past or future).
Pragmatism and agility weigh more than hard data in VUCA. When planning your next move in a VUCA world, first ask yourself which version of the situation you see and what’s happening right now.
StrengthsAsia has helped many individuals and corporate clients empower leaders throughout the region by enabling breakthrough experiences for both leaders and followers. If you wish to learn more about the Strengths Leadership Program, please reach out to us here.