VUCA is the new normal: here’s what you can do about it

We are living in uncertain times, and I want to talk about the links between managing these new complex and challenging business conditions, diverse workforces and inclusive leadership.

It’s probably no surprise to describe current global business conditions and societal change as ‘uncertain’. VUCA is the acronym for the current state of global politics, business challenges and societal change. It stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.

VUCA was first introduced by the US Army in the late 1980s to describe conditions post the cold world war but is incredibly relevant to current day world events. You will recognise VUCA in the current news cycle, which includes the simmering U.S-China trade war which is a symptom of China displacing the US as an economic powerhouse, the decline of trust in large listed organisations, mixed public opinion on renewable energy and climate change, a flat economy, and rapid technological innovation.

All of these factors are symptoms of the global megatrends first identified by London Business School Professor Lynda Gratton: technological disruption, demographic change, globalization, changing societal expectations and sustainability. These five megatrends are completely disrupting companies and contributing to the VUCA we are all experiencing.

Having diverse talent and leadership in your organisation is a proven factor in successfully navigating VUCA (there is a link to an excellent weforum article here on this). However, that diverse talent is only enabled by inclusive leadership.

Diversity and inclusion has never been just a nice-to-have for organisations and in fact those organisations that get the burning business imperative to create diverse and inclusive workplaces, will be better prepared to survive and thrive in technological disruption and an increasing VUCA environment. There are plenty of examples to back this assertion.

In a Forbes article published this month, columnist and investment advisory CEO Janet Brown asks: Should diversity matter to investors? The answer is yes and she cites four industry studies that show businesses in the top quartile for diversity of decision makers significantly outperform all others in profitability and stability.

Brown summarises the findings:

“Good corporate decision-making requires the ability to hear and consider different points of view, which comes from people who have different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives.” — Janet Brown

Creating a safe and respectful space to consider divergent points of view isn’t always an inherent skill for most leaders. But it is a necessity for creating the inclusive organisational culture in which diverse talent will perform and in turn ensure that organisations can pre-empt and successful respond to continuous change and disruption.

Recently, I wrote about how inclusive leadership led the England Cricket Team to a World Cup victory. The inclusive mindset of the team’s captain and other leaders enabled players from very different cultural backgrounds to leverage their unique strengths and perspectives to achieve a common goal, in one of the highest pressure workplaces of all. The same theory should be applied to teams in all organizations.

I have also been working on a program in partnership with the Mortgage and Finance Association of Australia to help its 11,000 members improve the diversity and inclusion of the broking industry. The MFAA has recognized the benefit of creating more diversity among its members and is putting in place several initiatives to help drive greater diversity in its members and industry leaders.

For some organizations building a workforce that can perform to a high level in complex conditions may require a ground up approach through a diversity and inclusion strategy. Others can start by further unlocking and enabling the mix of people they already work with.

What can you do in your organization to enable its existing diversity? Executive Central’s Coaching Academy is one option for leaders and people coaches to really strengthen their skill set for coaching diverse people and teams.

We deep dive into the methods and mindsets required for coaching talent and for establishing coaching cultures within an organization at Coaching Academy. Diversity and Inclusion isn’t the sole focus of Coaching Academy but participants graduate with all the methods, tools and the mindset to lead and enable people with diverse backgrounds, experience and skill sets.

For a more specific focus on creating inclusive and diverse workplaces, please ask me about our industry-leading Inclusive Leadership program. We have now delivered this program to some of Australia’s top ASX 100 companies in locations including Australia, New Zealand and across Asia. Our program helps better equip leaders to navigate VUCA by developing the capability to navigate change and disruption, unlock diverse talent and enhance innovation outcomes through more inclusive and agile leadership.

Please feel free to contact me about any of the info in this blog.

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Diversity and Inclusion

The business imperative for diversity and inclusion strategy and policy can no longer be ignored. We know that organisations with a strong and effective diversity and inclusion focus will successfully navigate disruption and remain globally competitive and future focused. Learn more.