In this article we discuss three (3) ways to help organizations dealing with VUCA.
I recently learned about an acronym VUCA. Which stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. I stumbled across the acronym while preparing an organizational change management plan for a healthcare organization. Below are my notes and key takeaways from VUCA.
Many organizations have found themselves in environments that can be perfectly summarized as VUCA. As such, I wanted to share some recent insights I have had about facilitating change, punching VUCA in the mouth, and managing the anxiety VUCA can cause.
In most cases I have seen, the organizational response to VUCA is fear and shortsightedness, when facing VUCA most organizations apply a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset forces one to believe that resources are scarce and that the current reality being experienced is the only reality that exists. The opposite of a fixed mindset is a growth mindset, which focuses more on abundance and future possibilities. These two mental models are pretty similar to what Simon Sinek explains as finite thinking vs. infinite thinking in his new book, the Infinite Game.
I can’t speak to how you or your organization may react to VUCA, but a common response is fear and shortsightedness. Once triggered, the anxiety caused by VUCA can convince you that the world is caving in, and that the only option is to let it all collapse. Feeling inadequate to respond to VUCA, many people become trapped by their limiting beliefs (finite thinking).
One of the ways to break this pattern is to adopt a growth mindset (infinite thinking). When facing VUCA, try to manage the emotions and the pressure to become reactionary. Below are three tactics to cope with anxiety often associated with VUCA, along with ideas on how these tactics can be applied to help your organization become more adaptive.
Use as many of your sense as possible to ground yourself in your current reality. Try to identify 3 things you can see, 3 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, and 3 things you can smell, and 3 things you can taste.
This technique slows the volatile response one has when feeling anxious, often referred to as “spinning out”. “Spinning out”, if you have not experienced it before, feels like everything is happening quickly, and in a giant blur. By grounding yourself through your senses you are better able to account for what is actually happening, not what you think is happening.
Focus on the facts and the things you do know. In VUCA, like with anxiety, it is easy to misinterpret the situation and “spin out”. By focusing on what you do know, and sharing what you know, you invite others to share what they might know. The more information sharing that happens, the clearer the picture of reality becomes.
Stop thinking and start thinking. Allow yourself to be still and to clear your mind. Assess how you are thinking by setting a timer and commit at least 5 minutes to experience and evaluate every thought you have, and then push it out of your mind, to clear room for the next thought. Thought by thought, you are trying to evaluate if the thought is representative of reality, or if the thought is more of an untruth, or limiting belief.
Anxiety is often a signal that there is conflict occurring between your thoughts and reality. Through meditating, you can quiet your mind and evaluate your thinking – specifically targeting the limiting beliefs or untruths. If the thought is a limiting belief, be sure to thank it for trying to keep you safe, and then close your eyes and hit “CTRL + ALT + DEL”.
When facing VUCA, focus on your organization’s core values and the vision. Interact with the situation in a way that represents the greater good and stay true to your organization’s purpose. Don’t be fooled in to thinking that being busy is being productive. Take time to stop and intentionally thinking about the appropriate next steps. Then act. Always evaluating how you are thinking, pushing out those mental models that are not reflective of the customer’s definition of value or true to your organization’s vision.
Stop trying to control the future, and trust that good things can and will happen. Give positive energy, and positive energy will be returned.
Anxiety is often caused due to uncertainty about the future, or a desire to control future outcomes to which you have no influence over. It usually has to do with a person’s energy for embracing or resisting change. By staying calm, through relinquishing control of the situation, and practicing faith in something bigger than yourself, you change your energy from being negative and fearful, to being positive and hopeful. Get clear on what outcome you want to see happen, then “put it to the Universe” and move on, as if it is a done deal.
When facing VUCA, it can be tempting to fear for the worse, and move into conservation mode. Energy in the organization can transform quickly, and the air can quite literally be sucked out of the room by this fear. When in conservation mode, the organization defaults to protect and defend, and an “every person for themselves” mentality arises. Instead of reacting with fear, organizations need to hardwire a more hopeful response. They need to stay calm and practice faith that good things can and will happen – if they are able to create the right energy to embrace change and evolve.
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