It’s a VUCA world.
You’ve heard it a lot.
Have you ever wondered what it means?
If you don’t know and have wondered, well now’s your chance to find out. I’ll answer the questions:
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VUCA was coined in the 1990s, in the military. But it sums up much of what the modern world feels like. Never more so than in 2020!
Project managers need to deal with the impacts of:
VUCA extends from the battlefield to business. We all live in a VUCA world. Let’s see what the four components of VUCA mean.
Volatility is about the rapid pace of change. The term suggests the sense that things can suddenly change state, rather than evolve.
Rapid changes make it hard to see what’s coming around the next bend. Your inability to foresee what’s next is unsettling.
Our modern societies are far more interconnected than ever before. Your organization is a part of a huge web of interdependent players, processes, and technology. And we are moving towards connecting every device that has a switch into a vast internet of things (IOT). This means we have replaced simple cause and effect with intermeshed feedback loops. The product of one small action is now inherently unpredictable.
What does this mean? There are many possible answers and an infinity of potential futures. One event might have multiple meanings. None is ‘true’ nor are they ‘false’. They are part of a network of meanings. You need to adapt to a fuzzy reality.
Bob Johanson coined the terms ‘VUCA prime’. It is an alternative acronym with four counterpoints to Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity.
Johanson first articulated VUCA Prime in his 2007 book, ‘Get There Early: Sensing the Future to Compete in the Present’.
‘VUCA Prime’ is a reversal of the VUCA elements to form a new acronym:
Ability to see through the turbulence of volatility, towards your end-goal.
An antidote to uncertainty. Invest your time to get to grips with the patterns.
Cut through the complexity to find simple underlying patterns. These are what drive the whole complex structure.
Select from many ambiguous alternatives… and then to switch again if your last choice is not ideal.
Subsequently, Bill George, at Harvard Business School, has put forward a similar (too similar?) VUCA 2.0 framework of:
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Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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