As an article in the Harvard Business Review pointed out some time ago, the corporate world has readily adopted what was originally a military acronym – VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity). Whilst it might sometimes be used as a convenient excuse for inaction – “the world is just too unpredictable” – it should stand as a constant reminder that we have to be ready to manage continual change.
Managing change is no longer a one-off event. It has become an ongoing process. A process that requires us to work with unpredictability, not simply throw our hands up at it. Elizabeth Doty, a network fellow of Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics and founder of Leadership Momentum, cites the example of one leader she had worked with who was required to integrate new teams six times in nine months.
In a recent article, Paul Keijzer stresses the need for teams to have both a ‘goal’ – a clear sense of purpose – and a ‘soul’ – a shared commitment to the purpose that generates strong and productive internal dynamics. But in a VUCA world, how can you, build, manage and develop high performing teams? How do you keep that goal and soul, what Keijzer calls the yin and yang of team development, intact?
The answer has to lie in upping the level of engagement, adding a new level of clarity, openness and trust to your communication. As Doty makes clear, everyone should understand where to focus ‘for now’ – even if ‘for now’ is the only certainty in a VUCA world.