If the world of leadership development and change management was a theme park, it would be called “VUCA World”. A chilling place, laced with black humour; a bit like the Vogon constructor fleet in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity. There are currently four revolutions happening around the world– in IT, Energy, Manufacturing and Life Sciences.
If you’re in a start-up you’re in VUCA world. If you care about the environment, you’re in VUCA World. The digital economy affects your organisation? Yep. You guessed it. You’re in VUCA world.
The good news is that no-one reads Vogon poetry to you. (It’s the 3rd worst in the universe, according to Douglas Adams)
“You’ll end up opting for the Vogon Poetry session.”
VUCA World is a theme park you may already have experienced: full of change, bright flashing lights and sudden, dark corners.
- Volatility: The roller-coaster in VUCA World isn’t just fast-moving with huge highs and lows. It cleverly combines those features with the thrills of the Ghost Train, as you never know what’s around the corner.
- Uncertainty: You think you’ve queued up for one kind of experience, only to find you’re asked to get out, mid-ride, and take another car of unknown destination. Or you thought you’d opted for the stately ‘London Eye’ style ferris wheel, only to be whirled around in a giant teacup full of anxious kids.
- Complexity: In VUCA World they believe that you take responsibility for your own choices and your own journey; so they remove the signposts that might clearly direct you to the rides (or the exit). Tickets make UK train travel look like a model of simplicity; prices are weighted by time, length of the ride, your age and your shoe size. Good news! There’s no gender discrimination in VUCA World, everyone can experience it for themselves.
- Ambiguity: VUCA World announces its ambiguity in its public advertising. Its strapline is “You need change, but you don’t want it and won’t like it”. The ticket sellers love to give you vague options; their motivational posters read “one the one hand this, might be best, but on the other….” And the friendly VUCANs (your black-uniformed hosts) are especially trained to give you at least three optional routes when you ask for directions.
“Since the solutions don’t lie in the problems, hanging out in VUCA World won’t help.”
You’ll end up opting for the Vogon Poetry session.
Many of our clients recognise that they’re already in VUCA World, and they don’t like it.
At Forton, we see our role as a trusted, reliable guide, equipping leaders and managers to succeed in this dynamic.
Since the solutions don’t lie in the problems, hanging out in VUCA World won’t help.
Personally, I love designing bespoke leadership development programmes (accredited by the CMI and ICF) for our clients. Particularly creating foundational leadership platforms so that participants have the confidence to explore and understand what’s happening. Then encourage them to apply their skills supported by 1-1 coaching and group action learning.
What we don’t do is give them a predictable list of situations and get them to think through alternative courses of action. Or help them to better argue against someone else’s ideas. Or develop their competitive spirit.
Success in VUCA world comes from collaboration, co-operation and co-creation. From developing, mentoring and coaching others. Relationships with others, our empathy, our resilience and influence matter more than power.
One client organisation increased their sales success rate and staff retention (within the 1st three months of recruitment) by introducing our leadership coaching method. They switched out their former method of promoting the best sales people into manager roles and expecting them to mentor their team.
VUCA World is a tough place. If you’d like to share your experience of trying to lead and manage in this dynamic, feel free to unload in the comments box below. Or share your expertise of what works; whether it’s a leadership or coaching tool. It would be great to hear from you.