V.U.C.A. & Business Survival
A “Radically Different & Unfamiliar” Environment
The world is not feeling settled right now (an understatement). Economically, socially, culturally – everything seems to be shifting and re-shifting with no breaks to assess, regroup – or take a deep breath! This blog article looks at business survival in the context of today.
As it turns out, a fellow blog author on this site also felt the relevance of the acronym V.U.C.A. with respect to what we’re all experiencing now (see Matt Heemstra’s article at https://www.gpsdairy.com/gps-dairy-blog/change-or-else). Matt did a great job asking some really solid questions.
Here’s the definition and a little background on VUCA:
What Is VUCA?
The United States Army War College was one of the first organizations to use the VUCA acronym, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Military planners were worried about the radically different and unfamiliar international security environment that had emerged, so they used VUCA to describe it. VUCA stands for:
- Volatile – change is rapid and unpredictable in its nature and extent.
- Uncertain – the present is unclear and the future is uncertain.
- Complex – many different, interconnected factors come into play, with the potential to cause chaos and confusion.
- Ambiguous – there is a lack of clarity or awareness about situations.
What Can You Do About It?
So how is your business faring in this climate of extreme volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity? What are you doing to not only ride this out, but come out better? Could you maybe even take advantage of the opportunities it presents?
There couldn’t be a more opportune time than now to truly embrace, internalize and apply the basics of Active Influence. If you’ve read my other blog posts, you may know that Active Influence can be thought of as an approach or model, but when practiced regularly, it truly becomes a way of being in the world. When it’s internalized, it will go far beyond dealing with today’s or tomorrow’s problems – it will enable you to become a predictive force in your life, work, family, and community — fully engaged and Actively Influencing the future.
When practiced regularly Active Influence truly becomes a way of being in the world.
Here is a very brief overview of core concepts within Active Influence. If you’d like to learn more, please leave a comment and I will follow up with you.
This is a cornerstone concept of Active Influence. The goal is to “keep moving to the right” – moving from a passive non-influential state to a highly influential predictive state. With practice, predictive thinking becomes your baseline.
In just about any situation, in order to influence most effectively you will need to role shift. At times you will lead, at other times the most influential role you can play may be supervisor, or coach, or facilitator, or manager. Mastery of this concept will enable you to “be” precisely what you need to be at any given time to achieve the goal at hand. This agility means you don’t play the “boss” all the time and supervise. It can also mean you stop leading the charge every time and get out of others’ way sooner. It could mean that you apply yourself appropriately based solely on what’s “in the middle” – that thing, person or situation that needs your priority focus.
This concept is about changing perspective — backing up to see the big picture while not losing sight of specific details. This enables you to assess where you truly need to focus efforts and resources, getting to the root causes of issues so you can prevent them in the future — versus focusing on a quick fix. I’ve become extremely biased that every successful manager and business leader needs to have a solid grasp of basic systems theory. It’s foundational and fundamental to working with people and the systems they work and live within.
Sorting through all the variables is nearly impossible at times, so we don’t. Then we wonder why all the money and people resources we invested didn’t move the needle one bit in our favor. It’s because systems theory isn’t complex, but systems are and therein lies the problem. It takes time to step back and map out your business to get to the real problems. These root causes can be elusive (as I am positive you already know if you’ve run any business). If you have people, agronomics and animals in a business, the variability at play becomes exponential.
Networks of Influence
Effective, dynamic networks create power. Power is the capacity to act on the future and ultimately get priority work done. If you run any size of business, you will need outside networks of help to build the capacity to take positive action towards breakdowns and opportunities.
A network of influence is made up of people who have capacity to help in areas you don’t and likely won’t have. It represents your real power to capitalize on what a VUCA world offers you in opportunities. If you spend all your time fixing, going it alone and on your own, the likelihood of success is much lower — and worst of all, slower. Reducing the time to a successful new and implemented solution for a critical problem is essential in this environment of rapid change.
Your job as a leader is to recruit others to help you reach your goals and performance. You may be recruiting a stronger line of operating capital or spending time broadening and deepening your network to increase your arc of influence. Map out your current network. Who is in it and what problems or profitable opportunities are they invested in with you to make your highest priorities a reality? Where do you have gaps? Wherever you’re stuck is likely where your business is stuck and where your network of influence is weakest. It just works that way. Shore up the gaps and strengthen the connections. Your influence will increase along with the strength of your network.
The Fruits of Active Influence
When we disrupt our natural tendencies to be passive and reactive, we create an opportunity for a set of possible new actions. The new actions create momentum which propels us into even more possibilities. I can’t get into details on the entire process of Active Influence in just one blog, but I can leave you with some practical ideas to begin integrating this mentality into your own leadership practices and business.
- When you get more of the RIGHT people involved with your priorities, YOU can become an Active Influencer — so attract the right people and keep them
- Be more proactive — which encourages creative thought — which nurtures energy and solution-based cultures
- Over time you generate confidence within yourself and others which leads to predictable results
- Increased involvement and engagement will create the energy and buy-in you need to drive change
- Shared understanding creates a common set of principles and priorities
- Use Active Influence concepts to create alignment and a pathway to achieving desired change
- Being an active influencer breeds greater success beyond just work and the bottom line
- You’ll gain knowledge and skills to use over a lifetime and to pass on to the next generation of leaders
- You will move from defending your business from the challenges of VUCA to capitalizing on the opportunities it offers