VUCA: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous
The acronym VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) has gained traction over the past decade as a way of describing the changing business world. We are becoming accustomed to working in an ever-changing landscape with the new challenges and opportunities presented by technology, globalisation and changing workforce demographics. But today, as Covid-19 sweeps the globe and increasingly disrupts the way we live and work, this description feels even more relevant.
In the UK, we thought Brexit represented one of the biggest changes to the nation that many of us would see in our lifetime – but how could we know that something even more transformative was just around the corner? Due to the Coronavirus outbreak our political, economic, social and work structures are now fundamentally changing and at great pace.
The world is likely to be very different post Covid-19 and I have no doubt that our society and economy will transform in ways we might not yet, fully appreciate. But what do business leaders need to do right now, to meet these external pressures head on?
Adapting quickly is key to survival and success
At its core, disruption is disruption. It doesn’t matter if it’s technological, economic, political or a pandemic. The response from business leaders must be the same - adapt, innovate and change to survive.
It’s never been more important that organisations today transform and adapt to the ‘VUCA’ world around them in order to succeed. However, this requires business leaders to think very differently and embrace change much quicker and on a much larger scale than ever before.
It’s not just about accepting business change and transformation; it’s about adapting better and more quickly than the competition.
Transforming Systems, Processes and People
So, in today’s world of work where ‘business as usual’ has gone out of the window and social distancing and remote working is the new ‘norm’, what should board-level executives adopt, change and adapt across their organisation?
In order to survive and indeed succeed, business leaders will need to go beyond cost saving strategies and look at how they can quickly and fundamentally transform their systems, processes and people. Here’s an example…
Remote working and collaboration
Remote working and collaboration are obvious examples of where an organisation’s systems, processes and people will need to change and adapt over the coming weeks and months. The speed at which technologies can be adopted, and best practice processes established, for their use, being the most critical aspect.
Even organisations with traditional operating models, are realising the importance of being able to provide remote working options to their employees and are quickly adapting by making use of technologies such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Slack for internal and external communication.
It will come as no surprise however, that companies which have previously resisted a ‘work from anywhere’ model, are finding it much harder going as they rapidly try to adopt and integrate these technologies and processes to ensure business continuity. No doubt, the early adopters of flexible working will have gained critical competitive advantage over their less agile competitors.
To some, it will come as a surprise to hear that many companies don’t have the hardware, network infrastructure or security in place to facilitate large volumes of remote workers. The strain threatens to hamstring their operations and could leave them open to a cyberattack.
Equally, few businesses understand how to motivate, engage and manage the careers of remote workers in these unprecedented times of increased stress and anxiety. In fact, many companies are only just coming to terms with their own wellness agendas. So, all in all, remote working during a pandemic represents massive system, process and cultural shifts for all organisations no matter how ‘remote working prepared’ they think they are.
Different industries and businesses will have their unique challenges and will be impacted differently by Covid-19. Everything from changes to product demand and stretched supply chains through to a complete (but hopefully temporary) loss of custom.
10 questions all leaders should answer
Here are the critical questions that all business leaders should be working hard to answer:
- How will we safeguard the wellbeing of our employees during this time?
- Do we have the right people in the right roles to achieve peak effectiveness?
- Can we work differently to engage and support a disparate work force?
- What changes will provide us with the cash position to survive this pandemic?
- What do we do that is business critical? If it’s not on this list, should we stop it?
- Which data must we prioritise? How do we ensure we get this at the right interval?
- What must we do differently to engage our customers and support our supply chain?
- Do our people have the right guidance and tools to be successful in these times?
- What measures should the leadership team take immediately, next week and next month?
- What programmes and projects are already underway that we need to keep, adapt or stop?
I’d love to hear from leaders on how your board is responding to the Covid-19 crisis and the impact this pandemic is having on your systems, processes and people. What are the impacts to your transformation programmes across your different business functions?
Please get in touch to share your insights. We are here to support our customers through these troubled times and can help with rapid transformation consultation, workforce planning and hiring.
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