We consider some of the abilities that leaders and managers need nowadays, in VUCA times. We go through three useful elements when putting into practice the critical abilities for leaders and managers in a VUCA world: using metaphors for conveying a vision, empowering explanations for creating a better course of action and asking powerful questions (to ourselves or to others) for creating the productive focus.
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The acronym VUCA.
The US Military started using this term in late 90s, after the former Soviet Union collapsed. The world stage and everything became different, unique… A fast-paced increasingly unstable and rapidly changing world. As in many models, we have a 2 by 2 matrix of analysis. Two dimensions: one dimension is about predicting the result of our actions, causality (cause-effect) becomes much more slippery than it used to be; the other dimension is about how we really understand a given situation.
This gives us four quadrants; the four quadrants are the four letters for the VUCA acronym.
At the end of the 90s Management took the model into our field. A very interesting approach came from Bob Johansen and his VUCA prime, a kind of antidote for the VUCA problem. To face Volatility we have VISION, to face Uncertainty we have UNDERSTANDING, to face Complexity we have CLARITY and to face Ambiguity we have AGILITY.
These four pillars require some old and some new abilities from the manager. We have made the following 4 clusters of abilities. Therefore we can find different techniques that will work very well in the line of these 4 clusters.
You are going to meet your project team for the kick off meeting. You are going to work together for 9 months. You have the option to choose one of these four metaphorical images to better express what you want the team to be/perform like.
This is a very powerful way of understanding the power of an inspiring vision and the big difference when choosing well the metaphor and the message.
Remember that in VUCA situations we will experience big difficulties in managing/understanding what is happening. This is all about reading the situation and life-long learning. But I use a funny expression instead: life-long unlearning!
Therefore our revision is based on our explanations. We explain things and our explanations follow the way we understand situations. Our understanding of past situations will condition our performance in future situations.
We can use self-empowering or self-disempowering explanations. When using self-disempowering explanations we find a low power of the victim to modify the situation. When using self-empowering explanations the player assumes his/her share of responsibility in the situation and (s)he can take actions towards his/her goals.
Focus is probably the most important thing when we need to achieve a high performance. We can be more or less focused, but I have found a very interesting way of focusing yourself and others: by asking powerful questions.