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Developing Leaders in a VUCA Environment

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Tue Feb 19 2013

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(From UNC Kenan-Flagler) -- In The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman notes that the rate of change today is much different than in the past. “Whenever civilization has gone through one of these disruptive, dislocating technical revolutions—like Gutenberg’s introduction of the printing press—the whole world has changed in profound ways,” he writes. “But there is something different about the flattening of the world that is going to be qualitatively different from other such profound changes: the speed and breadth with which it is taking hold….This flattening process is happening at warp speed and directly or indirectly touching a lot more people on the planet at once. The faster and broader this transition to a new era, the more likely is the potential of disruption.”

“To put it another way, the experiences of high-tech companies in the last few decades who failed to navigate the rapid changes brought about in their marketplace by these types of forces may be a warning to all the businesses, institutions and nation states that are now facing these inevitable, even predictable, changes but lack the leadership, flexibility and imagination to adapt—not because they are not smart or aware, but because the speed of change is simply overwhelming them.”

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This rapid flattening, as Friedman calls it, is creating a new environment that strategic business leaders are increasingly calling a “VUCA” environment. Coined in the late 1990’s, the military-derived acronym stands for the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity—terms that reflect an increasingly unstable and rapidly changing

business world. This new VUCA environment will require HR and talent management professionals to change the focus and methods of leadership development.

This white paper:

  • Discusses the history of VUCA and how it applies to business strategy and development.

  • Explores how VUCA is relevant to leadership development.

  • Discusses the “VUCA Prime,” which flips the acronym to focus on vision, understanding, clarity, and agility.

  • Offers suggestions on what HR and talent managers must do to change their leadership development approach to foster leadership vision, understanding, clarity, and agility.

Read more.

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