I'm curious how many of you are familiar with the acronym V.U.C.A.? It stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. I've referenced it in a number of blog posts in the past couple of years, and I've even been prone to incorporate it into performance reviews to provide additional context when coaching employees where emotional intelligence is or should be a focus. When feeling nostalgic for "simpler" times, I've tended to recall the 90's version of my professional self as a "people person," as a "multi-tasker" in the 2000's, and currently a "change agent" on flight 63 to VUCA-land.
As I began to search for some new blog material, I found myself drawn to re-explore the elements of V.U.C.A., likely because of its utter pervasiveness. In some respects, it feels like the symptoms of V.U.C.A. are now treated as the status quo. While some industries are more at the forefront and others lag behind, I even see the impact on small town government, rural schools/school districts, and small, local businesses that make up a large portion of our beautiful state of Vermont.
With the expansion of technology and a greater sense of interconnectedness as well as competition that fuels higher expectations, it may be extremely difficult to ignore the realities of V.U.C.A. that appear in different forms in different facets of our professional and personal lives. That said, we don't have to relinquish all control. In the words of Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl:
"When we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves."
While it is very difficult to imagine things worse than the horrors of wartime conflict, we may still encounter challenges in our lives that test our limits (of comfort, experience, problem-solving, endurance, sanity, health, etc.). The strategy we choose to lead with in this mental game of perseverance might very well be the key to overcoming V.U.C.A. demands and their toll.
Colin Shaw, Founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, published an article in 2013 on LinkedIn entitled "Dealing with Ambiguity: The New Business Imperative." Within his concise (and not the least bit dated) post, he laid out these 10 essential tips I find well-worth repeating:
In my continuous effort to become wiser (since "older" is inevitable), some days I feel like I've got the upper-hand on V.U.C.A. and other days I feel like it has me over a barrel. And that's when I (try to) roll........