Navigating through a V.U.C.A. world

In a business context as the one of today, characterized by sudden change and influenced by a great number of variabilities, it is not unusual to hear a term that may seem a bit out of place to define it, that is VUCA. Yet, such is the world today: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.

The acronym VUCA was used for the first time by the students of the US Army War College after the Cold War - a war that left us a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous world. The acronym was then applied to the business world to describe the uncertainty of the market and the turbulence that all companies must face. This new environment makes old business and leadership models increasingly obsolete and distances many companies from the achievement of a sustainable competitive advantage over the time.

But let’s get deeper in the meaning of the VUCA term.

The V is for Volatility. This means that the nature, speed and extent of changes are no longer predictable. This phenomenon, occurring more frequently than in the past, is further amplified by the exponential growth of digitalization, connectivity, global trade and competition. The certainties of today will no longer be those of tomorrow.

The U stands for Uncertainty, the lack of predictability of events. In a VUCA world it is increasingly difficult to use past experiences to predict the future, as the future will most probably not be a projection of the past.

The C means Complexity. The causes of any occurrence are often not clear and the complexity of the relevant factors is combined with a dynamic complexity, where the causes and effects are distant in time and space. Furthermore, relationships are increasingly interdependent and interconnected, and it is not useful to think only in terms of cause and effect.

The last element is the A for ambiguity. Ambiguity is the inability to accurately intercept threats before they put us in danger.

In such a "liquid" business world, in which it is difficult to hold steady to our fundamental points, an uncertain world in which experiences often cannot predict the future, made complex by interconnections concerning every process, companies have to respond quickly and effectively to situations, so that they can be favoured by change, rather than suffer it.

How can this be achieved? Developing a culture and a stimulating environment based on entrepreneurship, with new management and leadership models. And this is what FAIST CPS&IND has been working on this year: our management team was the first to start a training course, whose goal was to acquire a series of skills to build an “agile toolbox”, that could help us drive our organization into the future through this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. The explorer mindset, that values change rather than endure it, was considered so useful that the company decided to organize another training session for the middle reporting lines.

The result will be the diffusion of a univocal and identifying culture that will allow us to work together more effectively and strategically, and thus govern change.

"Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him”. [Aldous Huxley]

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