Cogs being turned

There has been seismic disruption to workplaces all around the world over the past few years. Organisations have shifted the way they do business, some have transformed their business models, and others have workforces working hybrid arrangements from home and the office creating new workplace dynamics.

This is a challenge for leaders. How can leaders make things feel as normal as possible to support ‘business as usual’ when we’re certainly not in a ‘business as usual’ environment?

The US military coined the acronym ‘VUCA’ to describe times of rapid and unpredictable change that are Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. VUCA can be used to explore the challenges surrounding the work landscape and can double as a simple catch-all summary for “Everything is going completely NUTS out there!”

It can also serve as a very useful framework for how leaders should and should not respond at this time as leaders can often display the VUCA characteristics in their own leadership style. This is even more detrimental in the current landscape.

Mertz (2014) gives leaders some tips on leading through VUCA times through the acronym DURT – being Direct, Understandable, Reliable, and Trustworthy.

How you can apply this in uncertain times:

Be Direct – Give your people the facts. What does the current situation mean for your business and the work your people are doing? How can you do this with kindness and compassion?

Be Understandable – Create a clear context and give clear messaging. Break down messages for your workforce in terms of what your plans mean for them in their role. If you have people in your organisation with English as a second language, or with literacy challenges, make sure your communications are delivered in formats and language that can be understood by them. Consider all communication formats, don’t just rely on email. Try WhatsApp groups, or communicate through video messages for more personalised communication.

Be Reliable – Ensure people can count on you. Workforces are looking at their leaders for direction and reassurance. Do what you said you’d do, or be straight about why the situation may have to change.

Be Trustworthy – No leader, politician or healthcare professional has a crystal ball to see the future and what the impact of the pandemic would be on personal lives, businesses, and the wider society. Also, leaders need to look out for their well-being and that of their people. As much as we all crave certainty, we need to acknowledge that situations have changed and treat our people with compassion and honesty.


VUCA Times Call for DURT Leaders