Strategic Human Capital Insights

Living with Disruption: Welcome to the VUCA World

It’s here to stay! Ignore at your own risk!

In the late 90’s the term VUCA was first used by the military.  VUCA certainly sounds like a strange acronym.  VUCA is defined as dealing with: 

V – Volatility: 
Anticipating and reacting to the nature and speed of change

U – Uncertainty: Maintaining effectiveness despite constant surprises and lack of predictability

C – Complexity: Navigating through complexity, chaos, and confusion

A – Ambiguity: Acting decisively without having clear direction & uncertainty 

VUCA is now used to describe today’s current world of work.  We are now right in the middle of this new working environment.  How different is this from the preceding work environment? It is very different. In my last blog, I compared the old, conventional work paradigm with the VUCA emerging work paradigm of:

The New Operating Dilemma – Impact of VUCA on Leadership

CEO Challenge – Leaders aren’t ready

The latest research about leadership readiness, in general*:

Only 52% of executives say that current leadership has the skills to effectively manage talent. Global Leadership Forecast asked leaders to assess their own readiness to execute. Their self-assessments are sobering: 

  • Regarding leadership behaviors, in general - never were more than 50% “very prepared” to address any of the leadership challenges
  • Regarding leadership behaviors in the human capital challenge - only 27% of leaders reported they were “very prepared” to be a leader who creates an optimal workplace where employees deliver their very best
  • HR leaders’ appraisal of current leadership and human capital - was even more harsh: Only 9% indicated their leaders were “very ready” to address human capital challenges


Take the VUCA Stress Test to assess how your organization measures up against  the impact of VUCA to your business

The latest research specifically regarding VUCA-Ready leaders: 

How do current leaders rank on the VUCA Leadership Readiness?

  • Volatility         41%
  • Uncertainty    37%
  • Complexity     36%
  • Ambiguity       31% 

So what makes this research so important?

If we can finally accept that we are living in a VUCA world, we must also acknowledge that this acceptance must change our perspective on everything organizational.  This is critical, especially when our organizational structures support the old operating paradigms.   We must now question every single one of our existing structures and processes to determine if they are still relevant.  It starts by assessing every organization’s readiness level of its current leadership through to every employee.  Every employee needs to be able to work in a VUCA world.

Critical New Skills Required in the VUCA world:

  • Business Acumen – Understanding the Business of the Business
  • Problem Identification – Cause versus Symptom Analysis
  • Critical Thinking at the Strategic Level
  • Accelerated Decision Making
  • Strategic Risk Management (for Every Function)
  • Short, Medium and Long-term Planning with Complex Consequence Analysis 
  • Complex Communication Skills
  • Navigating the Horizontal Matrix Structure
  • Identify Organizational and Functional Interdependencies

Continual VUCA Organizational Human Capital Assessment

At all employee levels, success in the VUCA world requires the following: 

  • Rethink of strategically aligned roles within the organization
  • Assessment of new and / or differently prioritized competencies within those roles
  • New skill sets to make those roles operationally successful
  • Continual human capital gap analysis and planning
  • Commitment to and investment in human capital to close any skills or knowledge gaps defined
  • Establish Individual development plans tied to new role benchmarks and competencies
  • Institute a robust human capital governance process to ensure accountability and ultimately keep the organization strategically aligned

Start to assess how your organization measures up against the impact of VUCA to your business.  Equally important, how do your people perform against the new VUCA skills? At Phoenix Strategic Performance, we have both a proprietary organizational alignment process and an employee assessment platform and database that are designed to meet the challenges of working in a VUCA World. 

How do your people perform against the new VUCA skills? Start to assess how your organization measures up against the impact of VUCA to your business. Take our complimentary VUCA Stress Test today.

Take the VUCA Stress Test

Topics: Leadership, Organizational Alignment & Effectiveness

Posted by Joanne Flynn

Joanne Flynn

In 2014, Joanne Flynn founded Phoenix Strategic Performance, a strategic human capital advisory firm. Prior to this, Joanne was Vice President at Goldman Sachs for 10 years responsible for global learning and development. She then led the consulting practice of Phoenix Group International, a consulting firm specializing in global financial service. Joanne is now taking best practices from the people-intensive financial services industry and adapting those best practices to startup and growth businesses. She is a thought leader in the areas of strategic organizational alignment, organizational agility, human capital gap analysis, leadership challenges for the new workplace and transformation leadership.

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