VUCA Prime

How to flourish in a VUCA World

If we accept that chaos is the “new normal” and that “VUCA” is a reasonable framework to recognize the nature of the conditions that we operate in, then that begs a question: “How can we best operate in this environment?” How can we flourish in a VUCA world? Some suggest that the best response to VUCA is VUCA PRIME (first introduced by Bob Johansen, a distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future). It is a method to counter each of the elements of VUCA with a specific counterpart.

Consider this unique approach.

Every organization must be prepared to abandon everything it does to survive in the future.” Peter Drucker




VISION over Volatility: Having a vision is an important first step in individual stability. Begin with the end in mind (Stephen Covey’s HABIT #2). In the Army we call it the “Backward Planning Sequence”, where we plan a mission from the end first (actions on the objective) then step-by-step back to the beginning of the operation. Also, try viewing today from the perspective of the desired future and have a clear intent (with a very clearly stated Purpose, Method, End-State, and Acceptable Risk). “Life is a journey”, so emphasize a direction over a specified route… or as Joi Ito, the Director of the MIT Media Lab, calls it:  Compass over Maps.

UNDERSTANDING over Uncertainty: Exercise and encourage listening, empathy, and sensing. Then, beyond awareness, understanding will also contribute to stability. Seek first to understand, then be understood (Stephen Covey’s HABIT #5). Practice the deliberate ability to “stop, look, and listen.” Be flexible. Get fresh perspectives. Be able to learn, unlearn, and relearn. Maximize the Power of Pull and Strong Ties and Weak Ties. Exercise and encourage listening, empathy, and sensing.

CLARITY over Complexity: Simplicity rules. It’s about thorough and rapid problem solving and decision making. Critical and creative thinking must be highly developed and encouraged.

AGILITY over Ambiguity: Try hard, fail fast, and learn. Maximize the Power of the Network in every way possible. Being able to communicate across the network… collaborating, maximizing the talent in the network, and having fully engaged team members is vital. Seek to be a Learning Organization in the true spirit that Peter Senge fully intended.

Again, VUCA represents the CONDITIONS that we are operating in… and those conditions will only increase in intensity in the future. As my good friend Andy Dean says: “There’s no such thing as bad weather… just poor clothing.” So like the weather… VUCA isn’t bad… it simply is. So consider VUCA PRIME and adequate antidote for the conditions and a useful framework to counter VUCA.

In the days to come, I will discuss the tools, models, and frameworks that I find useful and vital to stabilize myself and my partnerships in this VUCA world. Both individual stability and stable partnerships are necessary to achieve stable community… all three are the fundamental principles of LEAD FROM YOUR CURRENT POSITION®.

DISCUSSION QUESTION:  Do you have another method or framework that you use to guide you in this VUCA environment?”

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