How Executives Use VUCA to Get Ahead


Business instability thwarts the best laid plans. Yet volatile and dynamic market conditions offer executives the opportunity for game-changing achievement.

Volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) are here to stay. Once considered a cyclical process, technical and financial expansion—and contraction—cause ripples of change on a weekly basis throughout global economies. If you are an executive, or seeking a job shift, how can you use unpredictability to your advantage?

VUCA—what is it really?

While change is certain, VUCA is something different. The common factor of VUCA variables is instability. Change may usher in a period of instability, which is often foreseen and can be managed. VUCA has elements that cannot be managed—but can be exploited to help your company and enhance your resume.

Many C-suite executives take an oppositional perspective on our new VUCA world. Viewing VUCA as an unavoidable enemy, these leaders double-down on strategic planning and hope for the best. But the best way to deal with VUCA is to embrace it.

What does uncertainty look like?

American Airlines, Yahoo, and Twitter—what do these companies have in common? Consider these stories:

• In 2013, American Airlines Group saw only $1.8 billion in profits and merged with US Airways. Identified by Fortune magazine as one of the companies that lost the most money in 2014, an organizational reshuffle and providential fuel cost reductions gave American Airlines renewed vigor—and a revenue increase of 60 percent.

Melissa Mayer, the Google executive turned Yahoo CEO, continues her quest to restore Yahoo. While the results are not in, Ms. Mayer is being closely watched as she continues to use market and company maneuvers to refine her turnaround plan for the company. Ms. Mayer has widened the audience who respect her agility and ability.

• Another web company, Twitter, is in the grips of turnaround in the highly uncertain Internet ecosystem. Interim CEO Jack Dorsey is saying all the right things after the departure of former CEO Dick Costolo. Can Mr. Dorsey navigate VUCA to build the relevance of his brand—and his legacy? Time will tell.

Each industry is unique. The specific recovery plan for an airline is not going to work for a web communications company. Yet an understanding of how to work and achieve in volatile circumstances is common to success across the board. Whether you are in an executive position, or in transition, alignment with VUCA offers more opportunity than fighting it.

Create achievement from ambiguity

How can you capitalize on VUCA to ride the changes and get where you want to go? Consider these tips:

Volatility: Volatility has come to mean rapid, momentous market energy. This uneasy quality is easy to use with the right attitude: just accept that change is a constant condition and respond by using strategic thinking to create scalable processes. Recognizing the opportunity within volatility offers you a chance to position, or reposition, your company—and showcase your executive ability.

Uncertainty: Uncertainty is the nagging feeling you do not know enough to make a solid decision. Trust that impulse. When uncertain—talk to experts, ask for feedback, and gather information to support your innate decision-making ability. Respected decision makers acquire trustworthy information. If seeking a C-suite, or other professional position, speak with mentors, associates, and other advisors to develop the information you need to create, or illuminate, your direction.

Complexity: Perhaps the richest of all VUCA variables, complexity speaks to the interrelatedness of the dynamic factors affecting your business—or your job search. Step back to identify and understand the elements at play in your present professional or personal environment. This will enable you to develop a critical, comprehensive plan to address issues that are stifling your job search, or limiting success in your current position.

Ambiguity: In any job search, or employment transition, ambiguity is present. Like complexity, awareness is key to managing and using ambiguity. Ambiguity, by its nature, creates tension. Use that tension to renew a job search, investigate new directions, or as motivation in your current executive position.

The element common to each VUCA variable is emergence. Steering your company through volatile economic conditions is a high-level resume achievement. Capitalize on VUCA to create the change, and achievement, you need—to get the new job or promotion you deserve.

Be Well!


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About Lisa

Lisa Rangel and The Chameleon Team are the only executive resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and job landing consultancy who has been hired by LinkedIn and recognized by Forbes. Our 4-Stage META Job Landing System stems from decades of corporate and executive recruiting experience to position you to land your next 6 or 7-figure role faster.


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