Working in an uncertain world

SteeleThe Institute's Executive Director, Andrew Steele, ponders what it means to respond to volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous challenges.

I enjoy discovering new pieces of information that draw me up short and force me to reflect. Sometimes it is a new take on something I already know. Other times I discover some new aspect and begin to ponder how to make it work for me.

So it was, a few days ago, when I received the latest e-Newsletter from Training Zone. There is usually something worth reading in the weekly digest from their website and this week was no different. I'm not sure why but I was drawn to a headline ‘VUCA leadership: why you need it and how to develop it.’ I'd certainly never heard of VUCA and am not generally drawn to anything which suggests a new gimmick.

In her article, Lindsey Byrne, a Senior Consultant at learning specialisMan walking in a tunnelt Hemsley Fraser, pointed out the use of the acronym by the US armed forces. VUCA highlights the need to be ready for conditions which are volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

For sure, that is the situation that many a military commander must face but Byrne also pointed out that this is true of the world in which most of us work these days. She drew out the need for leaders to handle these qualities in their organisations.

It is true, too, for those of us working in learning and development. The organisations we are asked to help are rarely simple and only the most basic skill can be delivered without coming face-to-face with challenges that arise from the uncertain and ambiguous challenges that each agency faces. Make the wrong adjustment and things can go wrong. Communicate the wrong message and suddenly managers face a range of challenges in the legal, political or governance sphere which completely changes the dynamics.

As someone entrusted with enabling the development of media practitioners and managers I need to face the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of the situations faced by the learners. To do that I need to recognise the VUCA qualities of my own work and practice.

This article first appeared in Andrew’s blog.

Last modified: Wednesday, 1 March 2017, 4:59 PM