A VUCA leadership model for transformational change

As we move through and out of the COVID-19 pandemic and stalled economy caused by lockdown measures, organizations and their leaders will need to adapt to rapidly evolving environments. A huge proportion of United States workers (Gallup estimated 61%) suddenly found themselves working from home. 

This change was accompanied with all the challenges of working from home – such as social isolation, no boss for immediate support, using new collaboration tools, and the need to self-manage tasks and time. 

When the United States economy finally emerges from COVID-19, it is likely that many of the work-from-home changes will be reversed, causing another round of rapid workplace transformation.

Those organizations that adapt to the VUCA nature of today’s world will be those who remain successful and competitive throughout these unprecedented times. Putting in place a VUCA leadership model now will ensure that you will be well placed to evolve fluidly both today and in the future, no matter the reason for transformational change.

How do you lead change and maintain the motivation of your employees in an environment that causes confusion, frustration, anger and fear – the classic symptoms of any badly managed change initiative?

Engage your people in all change

People must not be forced to change. Doing so will only create tension and conflict in the workplace. It is imperative that your organization brings its people with it through the transformation process. After all, while leadership may set the strategic course, it is your people who put plans into action. If your employees are not engaged with change, resistance will be high, and your change project is more likely to fail.

How can your leaders best engage your employees in a VUCA world?

While COVID-19 has necessitated an immediate and rapid single effort, this is not the nature of organizational change. Change is constant, even during events such as COVID-19. Organizations and their people must adapt to a continuous stream of evolution – in processes, practices, markets and customer needs, among other factors.

The stress of change can lead to high levels of resistance to change. To overcome this, the VUCA leadership model encourages employees to be engaged with change continuously:

In the VUCA environment, engaged employees are those who are guided, not controlled. They understand the contribution they make and the value they offer.

Be innovative in your approach to engagement in change

When designing the environment and culture that will engage your people in continuous change, ensure that they are involved in the design process. Ask for their views and opinions, and include these in your strategic thinking and management planning.

Your people have much to offer. Isn’t that why you employed them?

Change your culture to lead change effectively

Change happens best in a culture of collaboration and innovation, when your people work together to find creative solutions to modern day problems. It is your organizational culture that dictates your ability to change and adapt in the VUCA world – culture shapes behavior.

Therefore, you must shape mindsets to being change prepared by encouraging more innovation and creativity. For this, you must identify and understand unacceptable behaviors and engage your people in reshaping the underlying culture that shapes collective behaviors. For example:

  • When you see unacceptable behavior, note it in detail.

  • Analyze the behavior to understand its cause.

  • Discuss the behavior and cause with your team. Encourage them to be honest with their feedback and seek their opinions.

  • With your team, travel the path of discovery and decide if the underlying culture should change.

  • Describe new behaviors expected, and recognize and reward those who demonstrate them.

Your current culture has been shaped by years of embedded values and beliefs. Engaging your employees in discussing them will serve to highlight how your culture shapes what you do – and your ability to be proactive in a continuously changing marketplace.

To lead change effectively in a VUCA world, your employees must be engaged and change prepared. A culture of collaboration and innovation is essential to an effective VUCA leadership model.

To learn more about shaping your leaders and your organization for the new normal in the VUCA world, contact Primeast today.

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