“We live in a VUCA world” one hears and reads more often lately. However, the term VUCA is by no means new and dates back to the cold war. There he was used by the U.S. Army as a description of the complex and “illogical” situation. Now, in the course of the digital transformation, this concept seems to be re-entering literature. But what is behind it?

VUCA World

What does the term “VUCA World” actually mean and how should it be interpreted? I found an approach in the Blog der Complement. For example, VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) stands for:

  • V (Volatility) – Prepare for wild times. The challenges will be unexpected and unstable and will keep you busy for an indeterminate period of time.
  • U (uncertainty) – hardly predictable, hardly predictability, potential for surprises
  • C (complexity) – no trivial “cooking recipes”, environment not comimable, non-standard, insoluble challenges (many influencing factors, difficult demarcation)
  • A (ambiguity) – often difficult to find cause and effect – ambiguous findings, typically: “All the facts are on the table and what does that mean now?”

Take your time for a short question!

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What’s new in the VUCA world?

“A VUCA world brutally punishes inaction and indecision. Waiting and putting your hands in your lap no longer pays off, but carries extreme risks. Even if we do not take immediate action, it is still necessary to look at the problem from several perspectives and perspectives and to work on creative solutions immediately – even when the problem arises,” the Management Portal. The portal also states: “A world that has become VUCA produces ambiguities due to its complexity. Their speed leads to uncertainties. Planning and forecasting is hardly possible any more.” According to some sources, a driver for this should digital transformation. But exactly how this affects the VUCA world is not yet sufficiently known.

Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is on everyone’s mouth. But what does this transformation mean and why is it so “VUCA”? Lübbers sees the digital transformation from two points of view:

  • Digital: Changing society based on technology
  • Transformation: Process with start and end

A change in society with a beginning and an end. If you want to know more about the topic, you can read my article on digital transformation. Overall, this does not sound so complex and still very vague at first glance. So the question remains, what is vuCA like that? The Prezi by Lübbers provides some examples of this, which can be found in the illustration.

digital transformation
The digital transformation brings with it many aspects and trends that are rated as “complex”. (Source Lübbers, embedded in Prezi)

Thus, the figure shows that the digital transformation consists of many aspects and that we are not properly aware of connections and effects. So mistakes are not excluded and responsibility must be shared in order to reduce complexity. Of course, this figure shows only a fraction of the factors, but it turns out that this is more than just a “small” trend.

And what are we doing now?

The question in the headline probably raises the status quo of managers. It is clear that we are in an increasing VUCA world, but how do we respond to it?

In summary, the complement makes the following theses:

  • Everything that can be digitized will be digitized.
  • Everything that can be networked will be networked.
  • Everything that can be automated will be automated.

Overall, these theses seem to be somewhat exaggerated and companies in particular will pay attention to digitizing them with “sense” and “understanding”. But it clearly shows the direction a company should take – namely, the digital transformation.

Applied to the world of work, it makes sense to come to terms with changes by expanding one’s knowledge and skills rather than burying one’s head in the sand. Talking to people instead of retreating into the quiet chamber. To look outside the box to see trends (Nicole Willnow).

This results in initial recommendations for the digital transformation in the VUCA world. Some can be found in the figure below. The author has assigned specific measures according to the criteria of VUCA. These could be used as a guideline and certainly still have many factors to add to the list of factors. But they are definitely suitable for a first discussion approach.

VUCA World
Recommendations for action for the VUCA world (own presentation)
Genderhinweis: Ich habe zur leichteren Lesbarkeit die männliche Form verwendet. Sofern keine explizite Unterscheidung getroffen wird, sind daher stets sowohl Frauen, Diverse als auch Männer sowie Menschen jeder Herkunft und Nation gemeint. Lesen Sie mehr dazu.

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I blog about the impact of digitalization on our working environment. For this purpose, I present content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday work. I am a manager in an SME myself and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the chair of IT Management.

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