VUCA is not a reason, and you can immunize yourself against it

By: Mickey Granot

Business reality is becoming ever more challenging, hectic, fast-paced. Things keep changing and rapidly. It effects everyone and anyone, even those large immensely successful organizations, even those that are part of the “new-era” economy such as Asus. Sadly this fact becomes an excuse, an accepted explanations to the undesired, dissatisfying even disappointing results companies are delivering. Language is “invented” and used for this purpose. Terms such as “VUCA” to say “It is crazy out there, we are doing our best” Apparently now our best is not good enough nowadays.


It is even sadder to realize that there is nothing new, we always used, and we keep using Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity to relief ourselves from responsibility, to place the blame on circumstances that are out of our control. We just invent new language for that, as the old one has been proven (in retrospect) to be incorrect. In a few years, we will have to replace VUCA with new terminology as facts will prove, that some companies thrived in spite of VUCA, it will become clear that taking appropriate managerial measures helped these companies to outperform not only competition, but also circumstances.


Some (most/ many) companies will survive, barely many others will perish into oblivion and will become the next case studies for Harvard and Oxford MBA students that nevertheless, will after repeat the same behavior and excuse. But, it does not have to be that way. Circumstances are out of our control, that is absolutely true. Immunizing the company so that the effects of circumstances is either absorbed without having too much negative effect, or even better, so that the effects are positive is what stakeholders expect from top management, not explanations.


And it is possible, it requires focus, determination and innovation. Focus means not only knowing what justifies and mandates management attention but more importantly, what does not (As Steve Jobs said – “It is not about saying YES to the thing you’ve got to focus on. It is about saying No to the other hundred good ideas”). Determination means that even when pressure is applied to do what everyone else is doing, we do not follow the pack of Penguins committing suicide. And innovation does not mean product innovation, but rather as Ginni Rometty, IBM’s CEO says “It is about innovating business models, processes, culture and management”.


And lastly, immunizing your company means creating performance buffers that can absorb/ reverse the effects of “out of control” circumstances. The bigger the buffers, the better. So, we need to focus on those actions that will create and than increase buffers. For that we need to identify which buffers are required and where?, what will create these buffers now? and what will increase them later? we need to focus on these activities, with determination and understand that this is the true essence of innovation – business models, processes, culture and management that create and continuously increase buffers that effectively and seamlessly absorb/ or reverse the effects of VUCA circumstances. As a result our the company becomes more and more resilient and immunized against these circumstances and management does not need to use them to explain failure/ difficulties.


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