Home Concepts Managing Change The VUCA-Plus Challenges

The VUCA-Plus Challenges

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[Note: this summary description of VUCA-Plus challenges has been prepared as a document to support interpretation of results from the VUCA-Plus Environmental Inventory. This inventory and its score key accompany this description.]

Obviously, there are many specific challenges that mid-21st Century citizens face as they live and work in their own communities and nations. These challenges might relate to commuting by car or train into a major city or simply finding fresh and uncontaminated water when living in a small rural community. They might be domestic challenges concerning a child going off to college or a grandparent who is struggling with dementia. These challenges are unique to each person and to each society in our world. However, there are the almost universal challenges associated with the volatility (U), uncertainty (U), complexity (C) and ambiguity (A) in our collective lives, as well as the equally as challenging turbulence and contradiction that we all encounter every day. This is the VUCA-Plus of mid-21st Century life—and it generates multiple challenges.

The VUCA Challenges

We will dwell briefly on the meaning to be assigned to each of the VUCA terms and then suggest how we might expand on VUCA. In essence, complexity concerns the many elements and dynamic interaction among elements that have to be taken into account, while Volatility refers to the rate and shifting rate of change among the elements. The other two terms have to do with epistemology (the way in which knowledge is acquired and reality is defined). Ambiguity concerns the assessment of both the evidence available regarding reality and the meaning assigned to this reality. The fourth term, Uncertainty, is about the stability of any assessment being made regarding reality. Does reality change over a short period of time? Why do an extensive assessment if our world is constantly shifting? VUCA is deservedly becoming the coin-of-the-realm among contemporary organizational analysts.  Here is a bit more detail regarding each element:

Volatility

Volatility refers the dynamics of change: its accelerating rate, intensity and speed as well as its unexpected catalysts. It concerns rapid change in an unpredictable manner.

Systemic impact: Changes Everywhere – Change curves on top of change curves

Personal impact: often surprised and unprepared.

Uncertainty

Uncertainty refers to the lack of predictability, the increasing prospects for surprising, “disruptive” changes that often overwhelm our awareness, understanding and ability to cope with events. It concerns a lack of continuity and resulting lack of clarity regarding what is going to happen from day to day.

Systemic impact: hard to plan for the future or even for one or two days from now given that nothing seems to be permanently in place — Contingency planning rather than tactical or strategic planning

Personal impact; must keep schedule and expectations quite flexible.

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