In our last post, Thriving Through VUCA, we warned of the dangers of too much survival-mode focus on stability and reducing complexity, and suggested that finding ways to embrace the complexity could lead to a state of turbo evolution through new ways of leading and collaborating. In this post, we offer some additional thoughts on a way of navigating VUCA that can help transform it from being scary, destabilizing, and triggering survival mode into a more hopeful, adaptive, evolutionary mode.
With a strategic and compelling vision for the direction you want to go, it’s easier to manage through the volatility inherent in so many business environments. While conditions may change, maintaining focus on the vision can guide you to make the appropriate necessary adjustments to ensure you’re still headed in the right direction. Be careful not to be too focused on and attached to specific details of a desired outcome—you may find those may need to change also—but the direction you’re headed provides you with a “North Star” to ensure you stay on track.
Hanging on to the idea of a specific outcome can lead to a different kind of failure – you may reach your goal only to find out it no longer makes sense, or is no longer a profitable niche, etc., whereas heading in a direction provides greater flexibility to adjust the specifics as things change, or more information comes to light.
Combined with your compelling vision, understanding the nature of your changing and uncertain environment will help you to maintain awareness and a readiness to make adjustments to your plan. This sort of understanding can also contribute to ensuring your vision / strategy is dynamic in the sense of being more about direction than specific outcomes. Even when changes that are outside of your control seem negative, acknowledging the new conditions, turning towards and striving to understand could lead to awareness of previously unseen opportunities.
Your compelling vision and the sense of direction it provides, combined with an understanding of the changing conditions and requirements to continue moving forward provide a kind of clarity necessary to quickly assess what’s needed next. Yes, there’s a great deal of complexity in much of what’s required to achieve our goals, but with clarity of vision and understanding of the dynamics at play, we can find pockets of simplicity buried within the broader complexity. Focus on what really matters, what will really make a difference, and what you can control.
Of course, there may be times when, despite our best efforts, it can be difficult to get to understanding and a sense of clarity, or we may even temporarily lose sight of our broader vision. There is another “C” that is a critical success factor to help keep you from getting derailed…
Recognizing that you’re not alone, that we’re all facing some degree of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity, can help you feel a bit less overwhelmed. Having compassion for yourself, and others, as we find our way, doing our best to plan and adapt as we go, can take a lot of the pressure off having to “get it right the first time, all the time” and instead adopt a stance of curiosity, learning and improving. If we’re beating ourselves up, or berating others, for missteps along the path we miss out on the creative potential that exists in the unknown.
For many, ambiguity can be stress-inducing, we want to know what to expect. But ambiguity also contains the seeds of creativity, if we can maintain a preparedness to adapt as things come into focus. Being able to make adjustments to a plan on the fly is a requirement. Make sure you’re able to adapt by building flexibility into your plan, get clear on what the non-negotiables are (if any), and what boundaries there may be on the things that can be changed. When informed by understanding and clarity, and guided by a compelling vision, adaptability might even lead to expand your great ideas and plans into something even greater!
To truly move from surviving in VUCA to evolving with it, you need to reimagine every aspect of how you view VUCA. Vision, Understanding, Clarity (and Compassion) and Adaptability all work together, each feeding and supporting the others. Approaching the dynamic conditions we’re all experiencing in this positive way moves you into the realm of turbo evolution!