Hey VUCA (Volatility; Uncertainty; Complexity; Ambiguity) — Why Are You Still Here??? It’s 2022 — Go Away, No One Likes You!
From: Just about all of us, especially in the business world
Subject: You overstaying your welcome
Let’s get right to the point: I’m seriously unhappy with you. It’s been two years now that you’ve ridden the coattails of the great pandemic to make an already VUCA (Volatility; Uncertainty; Complexity; Ambiguity)world even more so. Extremely more so.
Look, VUCA, many people might not know you by name but they sure experience your presence. When I wrote about you in March 2020 I and probably most other people on the planet would have thought that our world would have returned to some degree of normalcy by now, which is not to say that pre-2020 was somehow “normal.” But it was less crazy.
Yes, you were named in the late 1990s by the U.S. Army War College to describe a world rocked by unpredictable developments, by large-scale turbulence and disruption. You’ve fluctuated between being more extreme and less extreme over the years but now you seemed to have moved in for the long haul. C’mon — it’s been two years you’ve been at your worst and you refuse to leave. And you’ve soiled the bed and don’t seem to care.
Sure, you were with us before the pandemic as a result of the rapid pace of change in society, technology, and business in the late 20th century. The world will probably never be as predictable as it was 50 years ago. We were pre-VUCA. We get that.
And an army of consultants and writers are fond of telling us that we need to be comfortable with change and even embrace change. Ordinarily, that’s good advice, but VUCA you’ve taken it WAY too far. You represent change on some kind of freaky steroids and frankly, I don’t think anyone is “embracing” you except maybe some of those paid advice sellers.
The “New Normal?”
Although the phrase “new normal” has become one of the most overused expressions of the last few years, I’m wondering if you’re planning to hang around as long as your pal Covid hangs around and make this current state of affairs the permanent “new normal.” I hope not.
You’ve been blame-shifting for the past two years, claiming that you are just a by-product of the pandemic. Every time someone talks about you in the business world and what seems like perpetual havoc caused by all of the volatility and the uncertainty (that’s you), your take seems to be, “Of course, I’m gonna hang around and muck things up — there’s a pandemic going on!”
Well, we’re sick and tired of your “it is what it is” attitude whenever a new supply chain crisis pops up or whenever a company flip-flops yet again between WFH (Work From Home) and RTO (Return To Office). Are you trying to make VUCA the shortcut explanation for confounding circumstances just like “Catch 22” was in the early 1970s? That’s so pathetic.
VUCA permeates so many of our institutions and our human condition itself these days (don’t even get me started on how you’ve screwed up the educational systems worldwide…) so let me focus on just one area — business. You’ve really made a mess of things. Masking issues; labor shortages; vaccine issues; the so-called “Great Resignation;” chip shortages; stock market rollercoastering; an exhausted healthcare system; a hospitality industry that is finding it difficult to keep the lights on. The list could go on but you know all this.
And you’re probably proud of your work in a sick and twisted way. Did you get inspiration from the “mean” Grinch?
Impact on Business
Where you’ve really made business leaders and owners crazy is in the areas of planning and decision making, two bedrocks of running a business, a plant, or even a team. Effective planning and decision-making require some degree of predictability in the world so that assumptions and probabilities can be factored into choice-making. Do you appreciate how difficult you’ve made planning and decision making, whether it’s a multinational corporation or a Mom-and-Pop breakfast place?
As if I need to remind you, half of who you are — the “U” for Uncertainty and the “A” for Ambiguity make planning and decision making these days similar to using a Magic 8-Ball.
- Manager/Owner #1 — “Will this next quarter bring more demand or less demand for our products and services?” Magic 8-Ball — “Ask again later.”
- Manager/Owner #2 — “My supplier says my product component is on a container ship in Long Beach Harbor. What should my contingency plans be?” Magic 8-Ball — “Cannot predict now.”
And VUCA, because of you the time horizon for planning has continued to tumble. Fifty years ago “strategic planning” for many companies meant using a time horizon of about 5–7 years out. Early in the 21st century, that time horizon became about 3–5 years for many companies because of the increased speed of change.
Right now, it’s hard for many leaders and small business owners to plan beyond even the next few quarters because of all the uncertainty and ambiguity. A well-thought-out SWOT analysis or set of projections can be rendered irrelevant almost overnight based on the latest headline or regional stumble.
But VUCA, despite all the turmoil you’ve created, I’m hopeful that as the pandemic subsides you’ll be dialed back to less extreme levels of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and uncertainty. You’ll still be around in some form but the current version of you will be sent packing. We can’t wait.
That’s not to say that there will be serenity and tranquility in the business world and in our overall world. Life is messy and it will always be that way. We’re going to continue to experience profound changes in technology and in our institutions but perhaps we’ll get back to being able to embrace change instead of being punched in the mouth by it.
So VUCA — beat it! We’re taking back our lives. And don’t let the door hit you on your way out.
About the author: Mike Hoban is a business topics writer and leadership coach/ advisor. He is actively working at becoming a world-class grandpa to his five young granddaughters. In addition to his 35+ years experience as a leader, consultant, and business owner he has also published extensively in Fast Company and wrote many thought leadership pieces for DDI when he was there. He was also a business column for 12 years. His recent commentaries — including many about leading during the COVID crisis — can be found on his LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mike-hoban-b5756b6/ He can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.