COVID-19 has created what we have been calling the VUCAVIRUS™ … the viral global spread of extreme volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity!  It certainly has become viral in nature as it infects every part of our economic, political, social and even metaphysical domains of our lives. 

I venture to say that our current global condition is even far beyond the imagination of those social scientists at the U.S. Army War College who first coined the term VUCA to describe and label the extremely turbulent and disruptive world into which they were sending young military leaders in the late 1990’s.  

We are now operating in what we might classify as a “Level 5″ VUCA context where unimaginable levels of unpredictable volatility and uncertainty are bringing vexing levels of complexity and ambiguity thereby making being a leader today extraordinarily challenging and exhausting.  

This VUCAVIRUS™ is insidious in how it progressively penetrates and disables so many of our trusted operating systems.  It is somewhat like those nasty viruses that used to attack our computers and made them dysfunctional and disabled.  No doubt the VUCAVIRUS™ is light years beyond this example – but the potential calls to action may be similar.

It’s time to REBOOT and UPGRADE our operating systems to a more AGILE paradigm for our leaders, our teams and overall enterprise.  It starts with coming to grips with what we call the AGILITY CORE BELIEF SYSTEM. This imperative became very clear to me back in 2015 while we were finishing the writing and publishing of our book entitled FOCUSED, FAST & FLEXIBLE: Creating the Agility Advantage in a VUCA WORLD

I was meeting regularly with a literary professional, Martin Wilcox, who was former head of publications at the Center for Creative Leadership and an invaluable resource in helping us finally finish and publish our book. Martin asked me a simple but discerning question one day at our coffee shoppe meeting place.  He said, “Tom – you have been involved in this agility work for over fifteen years now … what is it that differentiates those clients who ‘get it’ from those who don’t and never end up making real progress?”

It was like a blind flash of the obvious as I sat back and savored his simple but profound question.  I said … Martin, it comes down to the Core Belief System they have.   Those that understand and believe in a set of core agility beliefs … well, they think, speak and act differently than those who do not understand or believe in those key tenets.  I truly believe that is the biggest difference between success and failure … or between staying fragile or becoming agile!

The Agility Core Beliefs, as outlined in our book, include the following key tenets and these tenets are incredibly important today as we live in the COVID-19 era that makes AGILITY a survival imperative as opposed to a program to consider.

  1. The world will continue to move faster and get more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) in the future … a lot more.
  2. Agility is not just nice to do.  It is imperative for survival and a competitive advantage opportunity in a VUCA world.
  3. Your PEOPLE are the highest priority.  They are the basis of your adaptability and the key to customer satisfaction.  Providing them the opportunity to grow and develop is paramount.
  4. The members of your organization must all share a mindset of commitment to being focused, fast and flexible fueled by achieving excellence in the five drivers in The Agile Model® – anticipating change, generating confidence, initiating action, liberating thinking and evaluating results.
  5. The Agile Culture elements are also vital to success: caring, connecting, committed, challenging, curious and creating.
  6. There are a set of agile operating principles that will help shape an organizational agility operating system include a focus on simplicity, speed, synchronicity, fluidity, modularity and scalability.

Building Agile leaders, teams and organizations is a strategic imperative and it is what we have devoted the past twenty years of our lives to living, understanding, defining and developing with our clients.  Best wishes to all as we try and navigate into the ‘fog of the future” as former Harvard and MIT Professor Don Sull would say.  Our capacity to become more proactive, resilient and optimistic will come from focusing on building the capabilities described above and through a new level of collaborative, engaged and attuned leadership at all levels and in all roles.

If you think this is something you as a leader need for yourself or your teams … we welcome your outreach to have a totally free conversation of your current state and how we can create a more agile future state.

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Tom O'Shea, CMC

Volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) - these are the times we live in and exactly why Tom O’Shea is considered a trusted advisor helping leaders, teams and organizations adapt and thrive to navigate VUCA and deliver future success.

Tom brings a unique blend of strategic, operational and organizational expertise that is rare and valuable.  With perceptive insight, proven strategies and impactful coaching skills, he helps clients at the enterprise, team and individual leader levels exceed even their own expectations.

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