VUCA is not an acronym for a spatial organization or a new 3D printer model. Instead, it is a question of a condition that has sadly become the norm for many, in the workplace and not. VUCA brings together the initials of four living conditions, chronicled starting from 9/11, then moving on from the 2008 financial crisis, from the precariousness of values and finally from COVID.
Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.
Military planners at the United States Army War College were among the first to use the acronym VUCA, following the terrorist attacks of September 11 in 2001. VUCA would therefore stand for: volatile, indicating a sudden and Uncertain change because the usual certainties are dismantled to make way for the Complex, i.e. chaos and the Ambiguous, i.e. the lack of clarity of unpredictable conditions. Clearly technology, the diffusion of social media, a digitization of human relationships have equally contributed to this sense of bewilderment, confusion, lack of trust and sometimes anger.
A challenge for a better tomorrow.
Once a VUCA process has been ascertained in a working environment, one can opt for two choices: the first is to continue to adopt old methods and remain paralysed. The second is to adapt and live with a constant state of change and instability. Which is much scarier said than done.
There are those who have identified various ways to better manage this situation, indeed by doing better!
VUCA poses a series of individual and team challenges that can be formidable when combined. To respond to VUCA threats Johansen proposes a framework, called VUCA Prime which suggests a multi-step path.
A new VUCA is always possible.
Countering Volatility with the Vision, which consists above all in not resisting change and welcoming it. First of all by establishing a vision of the company, its values and objectives.
Understanding as an antidote to Uncertainty. To “defeat” the second letter of VUCA it is necessary to stop and listen to the world, developing new points of view, understanding the times. To do this, it is necessary not only to adapt but to update oneself to review one’s internal activities, to experiment and not stand still. Plan and envision scenarios to prepare responses. In complex times, on the other hand, it is necessary to react with clarity, promoting clearer communication and pushing the team towards collaboration; the goal will be to prepare people to work in an ever-changing world. Finally, it is necessary to move the ambiguity with Adaptability. It’s necessary to be flexible, with people whose habitat is change and complexity, help them think outside the ordinary.
To do this, it is necessary to limit the control over the work, implementing transversal collaboration, debate and proactive comparison.
The tools at the service.
Converting the acronym VUCA in a positive and creative sense is a hypothesis that can be made a reality through concrete tools. Implementing team collaboration and seeing uncertainty not as a threat but as a stepping-stone to better decisions. Another way to live in a changing environment and change in turn, is to always look for better opportunities and offers, going beyond the usual supply. Team Building is also essential because clearly, not all people are strong enough to implement a sense of proactivity immediately. Many people will need to be helped to focus their attention and encouraged to work by the target. Clearly hiring people more prone to this, in an environment very prone to VUCA, is also essential.
What are the obstacles instead?
First of all individuals who resist change, who do not welcome new visions while remaining tied to already tried paths, who are unable to act. Even an overly authoritarian or controlling manager is an obstacle to a new vision of VUCA, as the pyramidal organization does not help flexibility, debate and proactive collaboration.
This situation of constant and unpredictable change that is now the norm in some work sectors requires to give up obsolete and limited ways of managing work.
To deepen the topic: