Strategic Human Capital Insights

Living with Disruption: Welcome to the VUCA World

The term, VUCA, was first used by the military and 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 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. 

The New Operating Dilemma – Impact of VUCA on Leadership

A majority of executives say that current leadership has the skills to manage talent effectively in the world of disruption. Global Leadership Forecast asked leaders to assess their readiness to execute. Their
self-assessments are sobering:

  • Regarding leadership behaviors, in general, no more than 50% were “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 showed that only 9% indicated their leaders were “very ready” to address human capital challenges


Take the VUCA Stress Test

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% 

What makes this information 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 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 and 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
  • Identifying Organizational and Functional Interdependencies

Continual VUCA Human Capital Assessment:

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

  • Rethink strategically aligned roles within the organization
  • Assessment of new and/or differently prioritized competencies within those roles
  • New skillsets 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 on 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 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 on your business. Take our VUCA Stress Test.

Take the VUCA Stress Test

Topics: Leadership, Organizational Alignment & Effectiveness

Posted by Joanne Flynn

Joanne Flynn

Joanne T. Flynn heads up the human capital advisory group, Phoenix Strategic Performance, Inc. Previously, she was a Managing Director with Phoenix Group International and was Vice President / Director of Global Learning and Development at Goldman, Sachs for nine years. Joanne works with organizations as they face global growth and competitive challenges. She works with her clients to be both externally focused and internally responsive. With her unique background, she aligns competitive strategic efforts with related internal organizational leadership challenges. With the benefit of her career-long focus, Joanne contributes the unique insight of aligning strategy to internal organizational structure and process. She focuses on human capital relative to strategic initiatives, accelerated business growth, value creation, and business development. Joanne holds a Master of Arts degree in Business Management from the University of Oklahoma. In addition, she holds a double degree major in History and German from St. Elizabeth University, as well as certificates from a variety of leading universities and professional training and development organizations. Joanne has recently published her latest book, Accelerating Business Success, The Human Asset Management Strategy.

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