Hurricane Katrina, 9/11 and the 2008 Recession are a few examples of extremely difficult events from recent history that filled our society with uncertainty, anxiety and fear of the future. Now, we’re facing another huge challenge from COVID-19. Economists call these rare, unexpected and consequential events “Black Swan” phenomena. But the challenging period of recovery that follows — and the uncomfortable feelings that emerge — are best described as VUCA.
An acronym first used by the U.S. Army War College to describe the need for organizational adaptability following the Cold War, VUCA stands for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. This acronym is used to describe times when change is rapid and unpredictable, the present is unclear, the future is uncertain, and multiple factors converge to create chaos and confusion. Sound familiar?
The thing about these VUCA times, though, is that as hard as they are, we always get through them. We can’t let this VUCA shake us — we must shake it. Actually, the best course of action is to flip it.
After all, life is full of situations we cannot control. What matters is how we react and respond.
So, instead of being frozen by worry, let’s flip:
Volatility… to Vision
Take charge of the uncertainty and create a vision for your company’s future. Prioritize the short-term while making sure not to lose sight of long-term goals.
Uncertainty… to Understanding
Analyze current market conditions and consumer behaviors to understand what is truly happening around you. Don’t make assumptions or play guessing games — ask tough questions and work hard to get real answers.
Identify operational issues and challenges and then proactively create resources to address the issues at hand. What is holding you back from making decisions faster? How can you improve your internal processes? Study and analyze the conflicts in your business flow, then streamline your practices.
and Ambiguity…to Agility
Be agile and constantly ask “what if?” See the change before it happens so that you can plan and react accordingly. Be willing to take risks and try new things, experimenting with what will work best in the new paradigm that emerges.
Remember this: Black Swan phenomena and VUCA times are going to continue to occur throughout the rest of time. Open your eyes, develop an understanding and directly address the chaos around you. Flip the VUCA. The results will amaze you.