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VUCA


Those of you who know VUCA, will probably be surprised, and hopefully will understand that there is an explanation for the image shown alongside.


For the uninitiated, VUCA stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. NO, I am not asking you to be even one of these adjectives. Today, let's look at VUCA, and how VUCA can fight VUCA.


As explained earlier, VUCA stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. There are opinions that the world is becoming more VUCA every day, while there are those that opine that the world has always been a VUCA one. Regardless, what is generally agreed upon is that VUCA is an excellent way to describe the world.

Let's start by looking at the V of VUCA, which stands for volatile. Imagine a person given to mood swings, a person having moments of epiphany and moments of despair. On the outside the person appears nonplussed. But at any given moment of time the person can be given to bursts of rage, or laughter. It could be for any reason -- maybe the coffee was not great, maybe someone said something in a meeting they found funny. Whatever the case, the mood of the person is volatile, which means you don't know how the person is going to react in a given situation.


How do you deal with such a person? The answer is you adapt to their mood. You accept that the person is not the problem; it is their mood swings, and you prepare yourself to their mood swings. Most likely, you've done it before. Ever taken care of a child or a toddler? Ever seen how they cry when they see things that made them laugh the day before and vice versa? What did you do at that time? You adapted by taking the offending item away from them. Adaptability, or versatility then is the key to dealing with volatility.


Next, comes the U in VUCA, which is uncertain. The difference between volatile and uncertain is that while volatile refers to an entity such as a person or a situation, uncertain refers to a result or an outcome.


Assume that a person has given you very vague requirements. Because of time constraints you worked on the requirements per your understanding (not the best way, and certainly not advisable). When you take your requirements to the person, you cannot be sure whether the person will like what you have to offer. That makes the outcome unknown, and thereby uncertain.


The antidote to uncertainty is understanding. Understand and acknowledge that there can be varied outcomes, and be prepared for all outcomes. Again, you may have done that before. Remember when you negotiated with your parents to go out to a party or with your friends? Or when you asked a person out on a date? Or when you gave that interview you desperately wanted to clear? The outcome was not in your hands, but you wanted it to go in your favor. When it didn't, there was understandable disappointment, denial, anger, frustration. But ultimately you made your peace with it. You came to an understanding.


The C in VUCA stands for complex. Complexity in the simplest terms can be interpreted as too many variables, where altering one variable will have desired or not desired consequences for the other variables, and to the overall situation. The fewer the variables, the less complex the system.


A good personification of complex is a financially challenged person who hasn't paid their insurance premiums. It is not because they don't want to, it is because they don't know how. They have mortgages or EMIs, school tuition fees, rent, and an assortment of bills to pay. Adjusting even one of these variables against the insurance premium will have an effect on that particular variable or a dependent variable.


Dealing with complexities requires you to be clear. You need to be clear about all the variables and how the variables interact amongst themselves. Do you think you have never done that before? Think again. Think about the time you learnt how to ride a bike, or drive a car, or swim, or make music, or dance. Each of these skills appears difficult at first, and to a novice, because it seems so...complex. Yet, when you get clarity on all the parts and how they interoperate -- the brake-pedal system on a bike, the gear-accelerator-brake-steering combination in a car, the coordination between your nose, arms, and legs while swimming, the notes-pitch-timbre-volume symphony in music, or the synergy between your various body parts while dancing -- it doesn't seem difficult anymore. You just...know. That knowledge is clarity.


That brings us to the A in VUCA - Ambiguous. Ambiguity is best described by the phrase "not exactly". When a result or an outcome can have more than one interpretations, it is ambiguous.


You encounter ambiguity in your daily life, and chances are you are ambiguous at times as well. Remember when you want to give someone feedback but at the same time you don't want to offend them? You vacillate between praise and advice, but the person receiving your feedback has little or no idea of what you are talking about. To them you are sending mixed signals. These mixed signals cause ambiguity.


How do you overcome ambiguity? The answer is accuracy. You seek accuracy of arguments and responses. Consider the case before. What if the person simply asked you to clearly state what you wanted to state. You would probably try to be more accurate.


What makes VUCA, VUCA? The world is called VUCA for a reason. Out there in the world, there is no such thing as exclusively volatile, or exclusively uncertain, or exclusively complex, or exclusively ambiguous. The real world is actually a combination of all four with one attribute being more dominant than the other at times. THAT is what makes a VUCA world that much more dangerous. Finally, the world is not as simple as the examples I called out. It is a lot more convoluted and a lot more chaotic than that.


So what did I mean when I mentioned earlier about VUCA fighting VUCA? Obviously I am not asking you to be Volatile, Uncertain, Complex,and Ambiguous! How about being Versatile, Understanding, Clear, and Accurate? That should be doable. So when I say let's be VUCA, what I mean is:

  • Let's be Versatile

  • Let's be Understanding

  • Let's be Clear

  • Let's be Accurate


So, let's be VUCA!


#VUCA #Volatile #Uncertain #Complex #Ambiguous

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