Is the world going crazy? No, the world is VUCA!

The Strategos complexity breakfast brought together some fifteen participants over a virtual coffee to discover the VUCA model. This approach was developed after the collapse of the USSR by the United States Army War College. It offers a framework for reading and responding to reconnect with meaning (to get out of vagueness) and to act (to get out of paralysis) in our increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world (VUCA).



The VUCA model

In concrete terms, these four letters mean the following:


V for volatility

  • The challenge is unexpected or unclear. It can also be open-ended, but it is not necessarily difficult to understand. Often there is already knowledge in the field
  • Rapid and unpredictable changes, without trend or structure, are underway. This volatility causes unrest

Example: prices fluctuate after a natural disaster, leaving the organisation without a supplier.


U for uncertainty

  • Although there is a lack of information, the causes and effects are known. Change is possible, but uncertain
  • The past does not allow to predict future results
  • Decision-making becomes more risky

Example: a competitor delays with the launch of a new product and this creates uncertainty in the market


C for complexity

  • We are dealing with changing, complex and multiple data, which interfere with the technology
  • Information is available, but its volume or nature can be confusing
  • Societal, geopolitical and environmental developments are underway

Example: working in different markets, each with its own prices, cultural values, legal rules


A for ambiguity

  • There is a lack of clarity about the meaning of events, their veracity, their context and their possible development
  • There are no precedents and we are facing new realities, “unknown unknowns”.
  • It is difficult to predict the impact of an action or initiative

Example: opening a new market or launching new products beyond its current sphere of competence

VUCA as a model for action

Another variation of VUCA can provide you with an answer and take action:

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V for vision

  • Maintain a clear vision of future direction and ensure that your intention is understood
  • Translate data into information and communicate clearly
  • Capitalise on complexity (what possibilities does it open up?)

U is for understanding

For some authors, this element refers to: listening, unique

  • Stop, listen and talk
  • Look at all the elements in play and make agile plans
  • To create an environment that is stable and as reassuring as possible to enable employees to continue their activities
  • Provide a clear vision and communicate consistently over time

C for clarity

For some authors, this element refers to: client, creativity, courage, collective

  • Giving clarity and direction: what does this mean for us?
  • Stop looking for a permanent solution and get used to the discomfort
  • Anticipating risks, but not wasting too much time on long-term planning

A for agility or adaptability

  • Listen carefully and take a collaborative approach; ask for feedback
  • Thinking in alternatives and progressing iteratively
  • Thinking globally and taking advantage of diversity

VUCA as an opportunity

Working in a VUCA environment thus becomes a managerial opportunity:

V for volatility

  • Gaining speed and simplifying processes
  • Reduce the weight of the hierarchy to encourage rapid decision-making

U for uncertainty

  • Develop a vision that allows you to project yourself and give meaning to your actions
  • Listening to the field
  • Creating a safe environment
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C for complexity

  • Keeping communication and management simple
  • Adapting the organisation into small autonomous entities
  • Working collaboratively on a knowledge basis

A for ambiguity

  • Encourage experimentation, testing and learning at all levels of the organisation
  • Constantly innovating, in a spirit of continuous improvement

The VUCA model thus serves as a lever for innovation and performance by pushing us to:

  • think systemically
  • become more agile
  • rely on collective intelligence
  • trust the emergence of new solutions

Acting in a VUCA world means making choices and accepting the possibility of being wrong.

The participants' experience

Participants appreciated the authentic format of this first event to introduce a new method and meet new people. This breakfast gave them the opportunity to realise that they are not alone in facing the uncertainty and complexity of current situations. They enjoyed sharing their experiences. In addition, the sympathetic feedback from the participants allowed many to take a step back and imagine new solutions. For some, these exchanges have even allowed them to regain meaning, confidence and a broader vision to face these volatile and uncertain times.

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