Fine-Tuning Leadership Skills to Navigate our Turbulent World (VUCA)
“….the key organisational task is not to design the most elegant structure but to capture individual capabilities and motivate the entire organisation to respond co-operatively to a complicated and dynamic environment.”
Christopher Bartlett and Sumanta Ghoshal, Harvard Business Review
We are still seeing volatility in our economic markets and uncertainty in our political arena. There remains an unprecedented level of complexity involved as we extricate ourselves from the EU and a number of ambiguous situations to respond to.
Strong leadership and a positive mindset are required to navigate this turbulent world. We need foresight and insight to support calm and carry this through with well-considered actions.
We live and work in what has been termed the VUCA world:
Volatile – because things change fast but not in a predictable way
Uncertain – because major changes happen so quickly and so fast that we cannot read them. The past is no longer an accurate predictor of the future
Complex – because there are so many different things happening all at the same time with so many moving parts and so many people involved
Ambiguous – because of the “who, what, where, when, why and how?” questions we used to pose no longer can be answered.
As leaders and managers, our mistakes often come when we try to oversimplify this VUCA world. We seek to deny the uncertainty and complexity and apply a few formulaic solutions hoping they will still hold good. We are obsessed with the K.I.S.S, “Keep it Simple, Stupid”, mantra that allows us off the hook and to rush towards what we term a solution when in fact it is nothing more than a stop-gap holding position.
Yet if we stopped thinking it would be simple, and rather understand that we live in a certain world that follows predictable patterns with enduring single truths, then we would start to manage ourselves and our organisations better. We would look to lead in a VUCA world by developing new ways of working which seek greater collaboration within our now multi-generational teams, leading to a way that works towards more lasting solutions to complex problems. If we learnt how to apply deeper thinking then we would learn how to better interact, and nurture, our teams and our people of immense capability and diversity, whose aspirations, needs, beliefs and values, will not only challenge, but ignite our thinking and progress overall.
Ultimately, we need to lead appropriately and once we can get our head, heart, and hands around the problems then the solutions are both varied and rich. They are eminently more worthwhile and hold their value. By seeking and creating a clear vision for our future with a strong alignment to our values, this will help to develop a deeper understanding of the context that we, our teams and organisation needs in order to operate efficiently and effectively. We need to create the conditions for us all to thrive and not just survive. A level of agility will be required – the ability to be quick and graceful, to have the mental and physical skills in speed and grace with strong intellectual acuity.
So please do not despair. If you are finding it tough at the moment, and if your environment seems to be forever changing, hideously complex, full of doubts and with few certainties left to cling onto then that is how it is meant to be. Our success will come not from over-simplifying the problems, but by working in new ways with each other to master complexity, live with ambiguity, ride volatility, and enjoy uncertainty. Just don’t expect it to be easy. There will be plenty of challenges ahead.
Oakridge delivers a one day programme titled Leadership skills for an uncertain world (VUCA) which is aimed at leaders who want to build a comprehensive toolkit for surviving and thriving in the VUCA environment. Please read the programme overview HERE and email Natalie Griffiths for more information.