VUCA: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous
With a three year-long pandemic in our rear-view mirror, with ongoing supply chain disruptions and a recession peeking at us from just around the corner, business life can be described as unpredictable at best.
In a recent discussion on “Accessing Advice in a VUCA World”, Advisory Board Centre’s Penny Ellenger was joined by Certified ChairsTM, Anouk De Blieck and Werner Boeing, whose own experience as advisors and business leaders has informed their understanding of business life as we know it.
Increasingly complex social and economic environments call for businesses to be truly nimble and adaptable. These shifting sands require a fresh outlook from leaders, to embrace concepts of culture, co-creation and engagement with their people – the one element that has the capacity to remain constant in this environment of ambiguity.
Anouk de Blieck, an experienced leader in the people, culture and operational space, can attest to this. Anouk shared that “the problem in today’s environment is acknowledging that no one has all the answers.”
The first step in navigating this new environment is to acknowledge the gaps within your own operations, and to seek advice from your teams or from outside the organisation.
The same can be said of those advising organisations, where uncertainty and volatility abound, advisors should embrace these VUCA concepts. Vulnerability and authenticity are now traits that underpin a trusted relationship between business leaders and external advisors. Werner Boeing, an experienced C-Suite executive and board member for market leading FMCG, BioTech, and MedTech companies notes that “leaders of transformation need a space for themselves” to effectively recognise this. Possessing self-perceived weaknesses in this environment is not a negative, “allowing themselves to recognise their vulnerabilities is a strength” and the first step for leaders in addressing them. Once recognised, there is virtue in having an ‘entourage’, as Anouk puts it, of talent around a leader, to bridge those knowledge gaps.
Those seeking to build a portfolio advising such leaders would do well to:
- focus on remaining highly current in their expertise
- be ‘fit for purpose’ to advisory role requirements
- be clear on the value that they bring to a business
- be flexible in terms of access.
In an environment where anxiety, uncertainty and vulnerability are the norm, the start-up ecosystem is in the middle of the perfect storm. Werner points out that “since resources are necessarily scarce, there is no room for layers of tight governance”, no history of ‘this is how we have always done things’ – we could argue that there is much to learn from this sector in how its leaders and advisors navigate chaos and uncertainty – focussing on their Why, being adaptable to changing conditions, and supported by a culture of collaboration.
Many thanks to Anouk and Werner for sharing your thoughts in this insightful session.