VUKA / VUCA: Leadership in a digital world

Have you ever heard of the acronym VUKA (also VUCA – Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity) heard? It is composed of the first letters of the terms Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexityand Ambiguity together. Currently, we are all experiencing firsthand what VUKA means in everyday life. The challenge is particularly great for managers, who for weeks have had to steer their employees through a world that is more fast-paced and unpredictable than ever. The ‘normal’ working day has changed fundamentally for ‘almost’ everyone.

Definition of VUCA

VUCA or VUCA world (VUCA is an acronym- Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity). These terms are not new. Labour market experts have been discussing them for years. The idea behind this is that in an increasingly globalised, networked and digital world, the same parameters no longer apply as in the analogue age. Change is permanent and new leadership skills are required.

From The following Reasons:

  1. The speed in the markets is increasing and changes are on the rise – one innovation follows the other. Technologies, ways of working, habits are being displaced by new ones faster than ever. This is what the word
    Volatility
    .
  2. As a result, dynamics can hardly be traced any more as dynamics can hardly be traced, as often erratic developments arise.. This is what the word
    Uncertainty
    .
  3. Our world is also becoming more complicated bit by bit as a result of ongoing globalisation and digitalisation. This is what the word Complexity.
  4. And: Business-critical parameters can change from one moment to the next. In many cases these are even contradictory. This is what the word Ambiguität.

Where does VUCA come from?

VUKA (also VUCA - Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity) Experts have long been suggesting new ways of looking at the world. One example is the futurist John Naisbitt, who coined the terms “the global village” and “information overload”. He was followed by two other authors: Alvin Toffler described acceleration as a basic phenomenon of modern life in his book “Future Shock”, published in 1970.

And then there is Peter Drucker. In September 2002, Peter Drucker (1909-2005), alongside Mary Parker Follet (1868-1933) and Elton Mayo (1880-1949) one of the most important thinkers on management and leadership in the last few decades, said the following at an event at Stanford University : “The complexity and uncertainty of the 21st century will require a new type of leadership based on knowledge and self-awareness. This new leader will be someone who knows how to deal with conflicting situations. “

The Israeli physicist Eli Goldratt lived since 1974 in the “world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity”. In his business novel “The Goal”, which according to Time Magazine is one of the 25 most influential management books of all time, he preaches a simple but revealing truth: Productivity is the act of bringing a company closer to its goal. If the company’s goal is to make money, then our focus should be on increasing throughput, decreasing inventory, and reducing operating costs. By teaching us how to look for process bottlenecks and applying the Theory of Constraints, Eli Goldratt gives us a fundamental understanding of how we should design productive systems.

What is so special about the VUCA world?

The developments in our time seem to be fundamentally different from those in earlier epochs. This is also evident when it comes to leadership. The old concepts no longer apply. Modern leadership styles are quickly becoming obsolete. The problem for managers and executives lies in the fact that developments no longer follow a plan or process. Rather, they tend to occur as the result of a coherent series of events that sometimes even IT professionals cannot predict. How can you deal with the challenges of digitization? Is it possible to cope with the uncertainty without being overwhelmed?

We are currently experiencing VUKA in its purest form

Agile Vuca Acronym VUKA (also VUCA - Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity) Since COVID-19 came into our world, we experience VUKA in pure culture. No one knows, for example, how long the pandemic will keep us busy and what economic impact it will have. The economic and political situation is hardly predictable anymore. Both economists and politicians are only driving by sight and can no longer make long-term decisions.

A situation that is stressful and challenging for all of us. But especially for leaders and executives. After all, the business success of their organization depends in large part on their decisions and leadership. All the more it is necessary to acquire new knowledge in order to stay fit and to adapt to new conditions.

What competencies do leaders need in a VUKA world?

To survive in the VUKA world, they need very specific skills:

Keyword: Ambiguity tolerance

They must not allow themselves to be thrown off course by short-term changes, but must see them as an exciting challenge that they want to counter.

Keyword: enabling competence and entrepreneurial competence.

They need the competence to recognize the opportunities that always lie in a crisis or an unforeseen turnaround and to derive sustainable decisions from them. Keyword: enabling competence and entrepreneurial competence.

Keyword: renunciation of power

Modern leaders usually preside over a team made up of specialists. In order to be able to make competent decisions, they must learn to seek the opinion of experts and to derive sustainable strategies from this. This requires a high degree of trust.

Vuka talent Keyword: agility

Leaders must accept that projects cannot always be thought through to the end in the current climate. Instead, they sometimes have to be adjusted in the middle of the process because the situation has already changed again. This means that a certain “experimental status” is entering the world of work. Companies can only react to this with agile working methods.

Pandemic provides foretaste of VUKA world

One thing is certain: the current situation offers at most a foretaste of what will be part of everyday life in the working world of the future. It doesn’t always have to be a pandemic that affects our everyday lives. volatile, ambivalent, uncertain and complicated does. Triggers can also be political unrest, the attack on digital infrastructures, strikes or outages in retail chains.

This makes it all the more important that managers are well positioned for the future. To do this, they must train in the key skills needed for a VUKA world. So far, so good. However, many executives currently work largely from home offices. Because social distancing is and remains the order of the day. How then are they to acquire the skills they desperately need?

VUKA world: New opportunities in the new world of work

Can managers learn the necessary skills in a VUCA world and prepare for the future?

In order to develop, leaders need to be able to work with colleagues from different areas of activity. This requires additional networking opportunities that go beyond the usual framework of business meetings. The concept: Talent Hubs.

A Talent Hub is a place where top managers from different areas of activity can meet and interact with one another. This makes it possible to acquire the necessary knowledge for the future and to make this knowledge available to all those involved. This goes beyond pure training courses, but also includes many networking opportunities.

What happened in 2008? The financial markets collapsed. Countries around the world have been drawn into an economic and financial crisis. Many companies went under, forcing millions of workers onto the streets. Some even predicted a total collapse of the capitalist system and many economists responded by saying “we are going through the valley of death” and that executives must learn to recognize and use this as an opportunity. For example, you need to be able to deal flexibly with decreasing resources. The 2008 financial crisis was an excellent learning experience that made this very clear. New business models were developed based on new competencies.

Implementation of Talent Hubs: Networking is essential!

networking can help top managers from different areas meet regularly and get to know each other better

To implement talent hubs, companies need a clear strategy and consensus among their executives. They also need strong support from all relevant stakeholders and sufficient financial resources. Without these prerequisites, implementation is difficult or even impossible.

Realistic goals as a success factor in the VUCA world

Can managers prepare for the future? And above all: how can you prepare your organizations? As I said, that’s difficult, if not impossible. At least in the short term. First, because it is still unclear what these key competencies should look like in practice and how they will be assessed. Second, because there are hardly any programs with which executive development can keep pace with this rapid change. In order to improve their leadership skills, top managers need well-founded concepts to guide them continuous learning bring.

Most bosses agree that the future of their companies lies in trained employees who use the most modern technologies, are able to convey information quickly and have excellent leadership skills.

Coping with the information overload

We are in the middle of an information avalanche, but it is no longer about how much information there is. Now it’s about what kind of information we need and how we can get it quickly from the right sources

To handle this massive flow of data efficiently and reliably, companies are increasingly relying on search engines that know what they want before they even ask. The future belongs to those who can find answers faster than their competitors … People anticipate it: if someone experiences something personally, then he or she will feel more empathy towards others who are experiencing a similar situation.

Personal experiences play an important role in our life. We use them to compare our personal situations with what others tell us or write it online or not, we live in the age of social media and companies have to deal with the fact that their employees regularly use Facebook or Twitter.

That means they can spread information about them quickly and easily. This has both advantages and disadvantages for companies …

The Talent Hubs of Ambiguity (TalentHubs) are the organized networking platforms from different industries / areas that come together to meet directly. Talent hubs are more than just summit meetings of top managers: They generate new ideas for the future world of work.

People participate – be it as participants or as observers from a distance (remote participation) – because they recognize the importance of innovation for the future success of their organization.

Swiss Connect Academy logo How can leaders continue their education for Vuca World now?

The Swiss Connect Academy has developed the comprehensive training course on the topic of Leadership in a digital world developed. Thanks to e-learning, learning can take place individually, independent of time and place..

The four-week training plan covers the following topics:

  • Digitalisation, working in the VUKA world, key competences in the VUKA world
  • Agile manifesto, agile mindset, agile values, agile principles, self-organized work and collaboration
  • Understanding of leadership in transition, agile leadership mindset, agile leadership values and agile leadership principles
  • Lean Thinking, Scrum, Design Thinking; Kanban

Learning in the community

A wide variety of media are available as teaching aids for the maximum of 15 participants, so that each learner can access what best suits his or her own learning style. Some people learn better through visual stimuli and go straight to the instructional video. Others absorb content better auditorily. For them, the podcasts integrated into the learning platform are the perfect format. Still others find the PowerPoint presentations with commentary exciting and, and, and. Very simple!

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