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5 Strategies to Survive in a VUCA World

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

We live in a constantly changing world, with rapid and unpredictable forces of change putting organizations left and right in a whirlwind. However, the disruptions we face are no longer news to us, and we have come to identify such an uncontrollable environment through the acronym “VUCA.”

Coined by the U.S. Army post-Cold War, “VUCA” stands for “volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.” Surviving a VUCA world demands responding to changes with quick, agile, and focused actions and preparation for potential risks. Living in a VUCA world may not be a walk in the park, but equipping your organization with these strategies may just be the key to keeping up with the speed of innovation.

Here are five strategies your organization can adopt to survive in a VUCA world:

1. Keep up with the changing needs of your clients.

The forces in a VUCA world are turbulent, affecting your organization’s ways of working, competitors, and environment in a blink of an eye. But as the speed of innovation accelerates, so do your customers’ needs and wants. Human resource expert Ms. Edalyn D. Hadjula-Legarde says it is crucial for organizations to keep up with the changing needs of their stakeholders and ensure they are always a step ahead.

“[‘Yung] kailangan ng mga customers natin ay nandiyan na pero ‘yung pag-dedeploy ng solutions ay nahuhuli. Naka-ten kilometers na si customer pero [si] company, nasa first few kilometers pa lang. If you want to get the client, you need to be at the same pace or faster than what your customers want,” Ms. Hadjula-Legarde says.

The three things to consider in adapting to your customer’s needs are desirability, which refers to identifying your clients’ ever-changing preferences; feasibility, which refers to the available technology utilized by your organization; and viability, which refers to business sustainability.

2. Find the sweet spot between your business and customers.

Born from the accelerating speed of innovation are the agile ways of working. Ms. Hadjula-Legarde notes that this approach springs from the need to shift from a business-centric to a customer-centric approach. Citing the journey of a once-leading multinational electronics corporation, which failed to adopt new trends in the industry, the expert says that it should never be “all about the business.”

“Agile ways of working is exactly what that is. It’s shifting that perspective, shifting that context, and really understanding what the customers not just want but what they actually need,” she says.

While their needs are of utmost importance, Ms. Hadjula-Legarde warns it is not just about the customer either. Getting the sweet spot between customer and business value is essential to any innovation.

“You need to find the sweet spot between what is important for your customer and what the business value [is]. Hindi pwedeng hindi siya naka-angkla sa anong gusto tahakin ng kumpanya,” she says.

If you want to get the client, you need to be at the same pace or faster than what your customers want.
— Ms. Edalyn Hadjula-Legarde

3. Focus on your organization’s strengths through appreciative inquiry.

More often than not, organizational change brought about by the VUCA world is addressed through an action research methodology, which begins by looking at the problem to be solved and trying to repair the identified mistakes. However, this approach disregards and takes for granted the organization’s existing strengths. 

Ms. Hadjula-Legarde says that, on the other hand, appreciative inquiry is a positive and collaborative group of techniques aimed at improving effective leadership and organizational and societal change. This approach boosts innovation by analyzing best practices, strategic planning, organizational culture, and initiatives.

“It’s really focusing on positive [and] strengths. [It’s] leveraging not on the gaps, [but on] your strengths, assets, and [using] that to further strengthen and really create interventions [and] solutions to the challenges we have in the organization,” she says.

When adopting an appreciative inquiry approach, organizations must look into the four positive core processes, namely discover (gathering data), dream (looking at the future), design (identifying what is ideal), and destiny (changes to undertake).

4. Always strive to have a “growth mindset”.

Mindsets are said to have a significant impact on people’s ability to learn. Some may have a fixed mindset, which means believing skills and intelligence are already set, and people are not in control of their abilities. On the other hand, a growth mindset means believing that skills and intelligence are grown and developed and being in control of your abilities. 

Unlike a fixed mindset, Ms. Hadjula-Legarde says that having a growth mindset allows for building new skills, improving processes, embracing challenges, and persevering. 

“Mindset is really about how we look at change. If you think you can and you think you cannot, it is all up to you. We focus on ano ‘yung kulang all the time, but we don’t see that these mistakes or errors are opportunity areas.”

[Appreciative inquiry is] leveraging not on the gaps, [but on] your strengths, assets, and [using] that to further strengthen and really create interventions [and] solutions to the challenges we have in the organization.
— Ms. Edalyn Hadjula-Legarde

5. Ditch the traditional corporate approach and adopt a fast-forward approach. 

In putting your customers first, Ms. Hadjula-Legarde introduced “FFWD,” or fast-forward, a customer-centric framework that leverages rapid iteration and experimentation to turn customer problems into successful business solutions. 

“Normally, when we look at programs palagi ang tinitignan natin kung kailan tayo mag-iimplement? Kailan tayo mag-dedeploy? But in the fastforward approach, it’s the customer first.”

FFWD comprises three concepts: emphasize, explore, and execute, answering the questions, “Are we doing the right thing?” and “Are we doing the thing right?”

“Is this what is relevant? Mag-iinvest ba ako sa gusto o hindi gusto ng mga tao? And in doing the thing right, hindi naman ibig sabihin perfect the first time because that is not what agile thinking is all about—it’s all about building on what we have.”


Want to create better practices and achieve better outcomes in your organization? We at ISA offer the Skills Lab, a capacity development program designed to empower organizations by enhancing diverse skills unique to any organization’s needs to achieve long-term sustainability and success. A Skills Lab course on Agile Ways of Working may be just around the corner! For more information, don’t hesitate to contact Kristine Roraldo at [email protected]

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