Charting Change, Enabling Development

Change is the only constant in this world. The last few decades have seen enormous changes, accelerated by technology, which have had far-reaching consequences. The geo-political landscape changed with the end of the cold war, civil society underwent many changes – new communication platforms and channels such as WhatsApp emerged; technology changed the workplace, speeding up deliveries and redefining deliverables. A new borderless world emerged in the virtual realm, and cross-cultural currents swept across the real world, bringing about changes in the socio-economic landscape of a country.

To describe this new world, the United States War College, which was preparing its students for this new world is said to have coined a new acronym – VUCA – which stood for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.

But every change carries within itself the seeds of greater transformation and greater good – provided one can ride the wave of change rather than be swamped by it.

Governments, corporates and people at large need to understand the VUCA world better.

Corporates have realized that hitherto successful products and strategies will need a re-look and in many cases a makeover if they are to continue succeeding in this new world. A new world also calls for new leadership styles. Management today requires far greater dexterity than before, and a far sharper sense of preparedness for unexpected outcomes of decisions and actions.

To lead in the VUCA world, a senior fellow at Harvard Business School, Bill George, introduced VUCA 2.0 redefining the 4 letters of the acronym to stand for Vision, Understanding, Courage and Adaptability.

VUCA 2.0

Vision – Today’s leaders need great clarity of vision to be able to navigate their way through the uncertainty and complexity that is almost inevitable. A clear vision will ensure that the leaders focuses on the right things to lead in the right direction.

Understanding – An in-depth understanding of the various factors that impact outcomes is necessary. Leaders will need to get this understanding from a diverse set of people ranging from employees to customers to ensure they are in tune with the different threads of conversation taking place. It is, therefore, essential to spend time in stores, factories, warehouses, innovation centers and labs and interact with as diverse a group of people as possible.

Courage – In today’s unpredictable times, leaders need more courage and compassion than ever before to step up to the challenges and take risky decisions. Quick-decision making especially in the face of adversity could spell the difference between success and failure.

Adaptability– VUCA calls for the need for leaders to be adaptable with a range of strategies and plans which could be put into practice as per the need of the hour.  

While volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous might be the best way to describe the current world, a new attitude and mindset can help navigate and lead in this VUCA world.