Moving beyond the VUCA challenges: Adopting VUCAR attitudes and behaviours

Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) – these are the watchwords that business leaders have come to see as typifying the state of global commerce in recent years. For many, there has been considerable focus on asking how best we can contend with these factors in effective business planning and execution for the future, all the while appreciating the difficulties that this uncertain state has led to for many companies.

Research suggests  that many CEOs feel ill-equipped to lead in a VUCA environment, with issues including fast-paced change in markets, volatile political and economic landscapes, the need to harness creative thinking along with embracing diversity, innovative ways of working and the inclusion of all, plus the difficulties of attracting and retaining the best talent and coping with the high levels of stress uncertainty can evoke. Here we highlight how there  is a way forward that can create success and sustainability that is engaging, stimulating and rewarding for all.

Bridging the gap between VUCA and VUCAR

The VUCA world is something that many of us have got used to, but that needn’t be the case, as an evolution of understanding is taking place in leadership thinking that can point businesses in the right direction to succeed and adapt to the current instability.

VUCAR is seen as the next step in helping CEOs to bridge the gap between their current concerns of a VUCA business landscape and the vision of where they want to be. It paves the way for better strategic and forward-looking thinking, providing a clear focus on how individuals and businesses alike can make the most of the current opportunities that surround them. Here is what VUCAR stands for and how it can help focus on future success of individuals and businesses:

Vision & Purpose – Knowing that complexity and challenges do exist, but having a clear focus and idea of what we are aiming to achieve with a strong and inspiring vision, for the company as a whole, for departments and for individuals. The vision provides focus, alignment and confidence for people to deliver the changing requirements.

Understanding & Self-awareness – Acknowledgement and appreciation of existing challenges can help to bring clarity of thought and understanding to the uncertainty that currently exists for many businesses. Look for trends and what is predictable. A focus on the individual and team strengths, and examining how our actions and behaviours impact our thinking and impacts on others, how we can support others, contribute our subject matter expertise and our ability to achieve the vision collaboratively is fundamental to success.

Capability & Advanced skills – What can we do to achieve our aims? How can we contribute in a meaningful manner using our skills, knowledge and capability? What more do we need to learn to develop our capability and contribute more effectively to the team? These are questions that will enhance the capability of teams in addressing the VUCA landscape. Businesses should be supporting their staff to develop core skills that improve reliability in performance, consistency in outcomes and derive greater impact for future success.

Agile & Adaptive – How can we be more agile as individuals and as teams? Are there creative ways of resourcing that can address current issues? What can we do differently that will lead to improved results? Developing an agile and adaptive mindset will ensure businesses have the flexibility and resourcefulness to meet the challenges they face.

Resilience & Sustainability – Ultimately, leaders need to ensure they have ‘bounce-back-ability’ – a term that describes their ability to brush off defeats and move forward with renewed purpose and focus. Prototyping and learning from both failures and success, quickly trying something different and seeking new perspectives from which to build. Only when businesses recognise the need to sustain and reinforce a shift in mindset from the negativity of VUCA to the positivity of VUCAR thinking will a new and creative way forward emerge.

VUCAR mindset does not happen on its own or by accident. We find strategic alignment leadership needs to be explored, challenged, with support and often coaching to transition through the transformation of self and the team. Done skilfully with courage and openness, a creative and transformational mindset can emerge. This will enable leaders to be more focussed on what opportunities exist for their business that had never been imagined before; instead of reacting to market forces in an uncertain landscape, companies can become trendsetters and position themselves to capitalise on the winds of change, leaving behind the competition in turmoil and disarray.

What does VUCAR mean for businesses?

There are no quick wins when it comes to developing the skills and understanding that help businesses to offset risk and adapt to the difficult economic times they currently face, but VUCAR does set out a roadmap to success that many companies with the right mindset can follow.

It starts by slowing down to speed up, by challenging current assumptions and limiting beliefs, it requires contributions from all subject matter experts and for the leader to tap into these – not needing to be the hub and centre of expertise but facilitate and inspire a drive to the future vision. It enables individuals to develop strategies to become more creative and less reactive in their business decision-making. This is primarily achieved through a stronger focus on understanding their true purpose, and positioning themselves to focus all of their efforts on achieving and aligning to the purpose and vision of the organisation, division and team goal.

Educating individuals on the benefits of developing their own unique understanding and skills will help to make leaders more intuitively aligned to a company’s vision for the future, while promoting the ability to quickly adapt and sustain their momentum in the face of a changing landscape.

In today’s complex world, there are challenges that organisations face that remain beyond their control, from political and economic instability to the shifting and ever-evolving tastes of the consumer. However, when companies help their staff to develop the individual tenets of a VUCAR mindset, they are better able to develop proactive processes and plans to address these concerns.

At Primeast, we aim to support leaders in developing purpose, vision and skills to maximise their potential, talent and resources to achieve their goals. We do this through the Prime Focus model, utilising transformational leadership approaches and applying latest leadership thinking to solve today’s problems with tomorrow’s solutions.

Prime Focus is one of our strategic alignment techniques that support the VUCAR work we do. It starts with Purpose and Vision and requires engagement of people throughout the business to be aligned. For transformation to happen, often the structure, systems, policies and procedures need to be updated. But without the right, mindset, character, behaviours and collaboration, then transformation will either not happen or certainly will not be sustainable.

VUCAR is a way to help unlock the potential of individuals and organisations in today’s VUCA world, but only through introspection and a change in corporate attitudes can this be achieved.

You can find out more about Primeast’s focus on helping organisations to position themselves for future success by reading our recent article, ‘Achieving successful culture change and improved performance – our top seven tips‘.

  • Martin Carver, Director and Head of Organisational Development at Primeast