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Staying on Track in a VUCA World

Volatile. Uncertain. Complex. Ambiguous. If you are leading a team or running a business the VUCA world is nothing new – you know that part of being a leader is expecting the unexpected, preparing contingencies if plans go awry, and making sure the team stays on track during challenge periods.

What makes our current moment unique is that the whole world is experiencing a VUCA event in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic, and businesses are having to adapt to uncertainty at a faster rate than ever before – with no end in sight. As a leader, how can you keep your team pushing ahead in this unprecedented environment?

Read on for some anti-VUCA strategies that will keep you one step ahead of the wild up-and-downs we’re all experiencing right now – and ensure that your team doesn’t get swallowed up by events outside of their control.

Staying Ahead of VUCA Events

  • ADAPTABILITY counteracts VOLATILITY. Adaptability means being prepared to pivot should your best-laid plans go awry. Preparedness should ideally begin before volatile occasions arise, through cross-training talent and making sure your resources and budget can cover emergency periods… but if a VUCA event catches you unaware, you can adapt on the fly by closely monitoring the situation, re-directing resources to the biggest challenge areas, and providing clear support and feedback to your team as they move through this period of instability.
  • SHARING counteracts UNCERTAINTY. Communication and transparency will help to dispel some of the uncertainty you and your team are feeling, and ensure you can continue to work without looming fear and anxiety. Even if you don’t have all of the information, communicating what you do know will keep everyone on the same page and ensure that you can move forward as a team. And the more you stay in touch and share your thoughts on the evolving situation, the more your team will be able to help you brainstorm and back potential solutions.
  • SPECIALISTS counteract COMPLEXITY. When dealing with complexity you and your team may be overwhelmed with information that’s difficult to understand or action. Now is the time to call in specialists – either from another department, or from an outside source. Inviting a specialist to give a presentation or instruct your team on complex processes will better position your organization to respond to the VUCA event, as chances are your competition will also be scrambling to understand the complex situation.
  • EXPERIMENTATION counteracts AMBIGUITY. There’s no playbook for running a business or team in the ambiguous COVID-19 world. The lack of precedent means that usual ways of doing business are impossible or unwise at this moment. When you have to re-write the playbook, options you may have been putting off (or may not have thought of) will start to emerge – like testing new products, or moving into new markets. A challenge period is often an ideal time for building new muscles and attacking stretch goals – if resources allow. So bring your team together and brainstorm on how you can establish more effective processes, solve problems, and move in new directions in this unusual time.

VUCA events are wildcards, and how you respond will be highly dependent on your organizational resources, culture, and talent pool. But as a leader, you have the power to reframe VUCA as a vehicle of possibility rather than a threat – and you can position your team to take advantage of the opportunities this moment provides. The VUCA world isn’t going anywhere any time soon – but you do have options for navigating it well. Best of luck out there.

Success Labs is a leadership development and management consulting firm in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more than 25 years, our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to grow leaders, build teams and drive results through great people strategy.

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