Why you should get to know the VUCA World
The acronym VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity and originated at the Army War College in 1987 in reference to leadership in volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous situations, which was then adopted by the business world. The continuous changes, uncertainties and new challenges, which have become the norm in the VUCA World, mean that mistakes can have much more serious consequences than they did 15 years ago.
- Volatility in this context means that companies and their markets are subject to constant change, which happens rapidly and can also take on large dimensions. It is a fast rise and fall of the economy, and constantly new trends that change direction more often.
- Uncertainty is relatively easy to explain. No one can say with 100 percent certainty which opportunities and challenges the future will bring. Take, for example, the Corona crisis, which suddenly made everything uncertain overnight.
- With increased Complexity arise new challenges for companies. Nowadays, there are many more different and interdependent factors that influence performance, so that the expert knowledge of a single person is hardly sufficient.
- Ambiguity is similar to Uncertainty but it is important not to confuse the two. While Uncertainty means that no one can anticipate the important information because it is not known, Ambiguity means that one has this information but does not know how to interpret it because different interpretations exist depending on the change of perspective. This can lead to prejudiced, one-sided assessments of the situation.
It is therefore clear that in the age of the VUCA World, companies have to make a greater effort to achieve their corporate goals. The effects of the VUCA world not only influence the market, but also the internal structures of your company; employees may be worried about the future, feel demotivated and unstable, which in turn reflects on your company. Decision-making processes become more difficult, especially when it comes to long-term projects and innovations. If management does not take the initiative in this matter, there is a possibility that a VUCA world will emerge within your own company, characterized by unpredictability, rapid changes, complexity and opaque areas of tension.
The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.
Peter F. Drucker
How Does Your Business Survive in the VUCA World?
In the following, we will show you the important and promising strategies. These include, on the one hand, the ‘Build, Measure, Learn’ scheme and, on the other, the steps of lean management.
Lean Start-Ups: Build, Measure, Learn
When it comes to founding a new company in the VUCA world, startups with limited budgets have a particularly hard time factoring the many risk factors into their planning so as not to fail right at the starting gate. To do so, it is worthwhile to embrace the principles of Build, Measure and Learn.
First, the minimum version of the product is launched (build), then it is continuously evaluated on the basis of previously defined parameters and customer feedback (measure), and finally, conclusions are drawn on the basis of this data for the next adaptation steps (learn). This is to be understood as a cycle that is run through again and again in order to guarantee optimal adaptation to the customer and to be able to react agilely to upheavals.
Food for thought: Effective strategies for success in the VUCA World always involve foresight and continuous learning through calculated experimentation around new initiatives as well as adaptation to change processes. Thus, the strength lies in agility to seize opportunities and to proactively plan for a change of circumstance. The journey is the goal.
The three stages of lean management
Lean Management is based on the principles of Logical Incrementalism. At first, this sounds like another empty ‘ism’, but it brings both safety and progress to the VUCA world. An increment is the size of a step-by-step change and that is also the heart of this strategy; it is a deliberately chosen, small-step approach characterized by calculated experimentation and learning from the results obtained.
The first step is to collect and analyze data. This should be done with foresight, which, in addition to learning from past experience, also takes into account trends, different scenarios and coexistences. This is particularly important when it comes to the uncertainty and fast-moving nature of the VUCA world. The scenarios should not be neglected because they prevent ambiguity and allow a flexible view as well as action possibilities depending on the potential outcome. In doing so, you should ask yourself the questions of what could happen and which effects it might have.
The second step is strategy creation which is a very subjective process that often involves various action steps. These are based on a set of goals and objectives. Young companies in particular will initially see a kind of black box here, which will only gradually be filled with more experience and insights. So-called road-mapping should be taken into consideration. It answers the questions of where the company currently stands, which goal it wants to achieve at which point in time, and the ultimate plan of action. Dynamics is a key factor; if the strategy is designed with this in mind, implementation will succeed all the better.
Which leads to the third step: an implementation of the planned strategy based on logical incrementalism and dynamic road-mapping. It allows a flexible approach for achieving the strategic goals. Road-mapping is more than just strategy definition and implementation. It includes the immensely important factor of successful communication of this strategy, because without the pervasive understanding of all involved, the implementation cannot unfold its full potential.
Gain Strength from Continuous Learning
No matter where you are with your company at the moment – effective strategies for growing in the VUCA world always include foresight and, above all, continuous learning from controlled testing of new measures and the appropriate adaptation for change processes. Thus, the strength lies not in a rigid organization but in the agility to take advantage of opportunities and proactively plan for changes in circumstances. The path is the goal. If you’re interested in another approach for managing innovation and opportunities, check out our article on agile product management!