The VUCA Method for Leadership & Management in Times of Crisis – Ex. Covid- 19 (Adaptation, performance, and development)
By: Mohammed Meri
University of Strasbourg – Laboratoire Sage, France
The acronym VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) was coined in 1989, by the US Army War College – a school that depends on the US military – to denote the multilateral world more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous, after the end of the cold war and the dangers of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in 1990-1991.
After the implementation of this concept and the evolution of its application, in different fields, as well as the development that has been added on its characteristics and principles, it is more and more used in companies and administrations.
So, VUCA represents these four terms: (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity), these traits have always been present in the world, but what has changed is the speed of change affecting all aspects of our life. As the world accelerates, it brings a whole new dimension to the VUCA world. There are no more stable moments now, and there has never been so much technological ability to predict the world, in instability, the only certainty is the change that it is made permanent.
The challenge now is therefore to acquire sufficiently flexible management styles and organizations and an innovative leadership style to be able to adapt to this VUCA world. This observation opens the need to learn to live with what is beyond and will always exceed us.
Faced with uncertainty in the environment, human resources need meaning, aspirations, and strong values, but the demands placed on leaders are even greater, they must be able to adjust their plans in real time, which requires being connected to their internal and external environment, and they must also be carriers of the VUCA Method (VUCA.M) for all, because many still have the conviction to operate in stable environments. Leaders must move from a controlling role to that of a guide preparing for action. For them, it will be less a question of managing their time than their energy, of being able to stay the course and face the unforeseen, which requires leading a healthy life and paying particular attention to the risks of dispersion or failure.
From the beginning of the 2000s, the VUCA.M has continued to develop to be able to apply it in the world of business and administrations; it is based on these attempts, a new VUCA method was invented bearing the name “VUCA Prime” adding four methodological and practical aspects, such as: (Vision, Understanding, Clarity and Agility).
In this context, when a company or administration lives in an unstable environment, it can begin to adapt to the new challenges of the VUCA world; because in companies ou in administrations, there is a habit of establishing plans to go from A to B. But, in the VUCA world, it is not certain that the destination will be B. The context can change, and it will be preferable to switch to C, D or E. Hence the need to evolve towards more adaptive management and leadership.