VUCA is an acronym which stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. So, VUCA world is the one in which everything changes, everything flows, panta rhei; not a really new concept, is it?

The acronym was first used by U.S. Army in 1987 as a term describing the new order that emerged after the Cold War, next It quickly sprouted on business ground, feeding into organizational management, trainings and development. Finally, it has also grown into concepts connected various social issues, e.g. migration, changes on the labour market, hyper-connectivity, the introduction of GDPR, etc.

Let’s now take a closer look at each of the four notions that VUCA stems from.

VOLATILITY

Whatever we plan today will probably prove inadequate tomorrow. The nature of changes that we are experiencing, and their future impact, is more and more difficult to embrace. We can often hear experts talking of volatile markets, volatile political situation, volatile relationships, whereas “stable” or “stability” are not necessarily mainstream.

UNCERTAINTY

As popular folklore has it, there are only three things that are certain in life: death, taxes and change. All the rest is uncertain and highly unpredictable; the awareness and understanding of ongoing events is limited; we cannot predict the what or why of various occurrences.

COMPLEXITY

Undeniably, high quality connectivity makes things easier and faster for us; however, it also has a detrimental effect: every day, every moment we are forced to struggle our way through information noise and information pollution in quest of meaningful signals.

AMBIGUITY

Nothing is what it seems at first sight, nothing is clear; every event, situation or piece of communication is relative: there are as many interpretations as there are individuals looking at still the same situation.

To sum up, VUCA appears incredibly… VAGUE, especially in the context of corporate world with all the KPIs, indicators, milestones, benchmarking and financial results – you name it, Dear Reader.

New VUCA

Fortunately, there is a light at the end of this obscure tunnel. Bob Johansen, the author of “Leaders Make the Future: Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World”, suggests that volatility can be approached with VISION, uncertainty with UNDERSTANDING, complexity with CLARITY, and ambiguity with AGILITY.

How can HR departments apply new VUCA ideas in their organizations?

In the context of VISION:
  • recruit employees who have a wide scope of interests and various talents
  • invest in training and development, especially those activities which are carried out outside the training room
In the area of UNDERSTANDING:
  • promote new technologies and their use throughout entire organisation
  • introduce communication which will resonate with younger generations (Millenials and Gen Z – Digital Natives)
  • invest in talent identification and development
As far as CLARITY is concerned:
  • keep processes as simple as possible
  • outsource non-strategic areas
With AGILITY in mind:
  • promote increased mobility
  • encourage teleworking
  • foster virtual teams

Glossary:

  • volatility – zmienność
  • uncertainty – niepewność
  • complexity – złożoność
  • ambiguity – niejednoznaczność
  • to emerge – pojawiać się, wynurzać się
  • to sprout – kiełkować
  • to feed into – przekładać się na, przyczyniać się do
  • to stem from – wynikać z
  • folklore – wiedza ludowa
  • detrimental – szkodliwy
  • in quest of – w poszukiwaniu
  • vague – niejasny
  • obscure – ciemny
  • agility – zwinność

Exercise:

Decide if the sentences below are True (T) or False (F).

VUCA is not a new concept.
VUCA was first used in the wake of the Second World War.
“V” stands for VAGUE.
It is hard to explain what VUCA really means.
New VUCA is easier to understand in the context of organizational management.