VUCA Countermeasures vs Circuit Breaker Classes
WRITTEN BY: GAVIN CHAN
Yoga, tuition centres and gyms move online as Singapore gets used to operating in the virtual world
In the world of management, changes have been inevitable in every organisation. With changes occurring, the trendy word ‘VUCA’ has been the talk of the town. So “what is ‘VUCA’?” you may ask. VUCA is an acronym and a concept that originated with students in the U.S. Army War College to describe Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity.
COVID-19 on the economy
Unpredictable events occurring in organisations will be seen positively and negatively. Leaders are put in difficult positions in making unprecedented decisions for the organisation’s advantage. This is reflected through the current COVID-19 situation that has affected the international economy, operations and even the daily lives of every single citizen in the world. As we all know, not even our little red dot has been spared.
Being a first world country with developed market economy, many operations especially the service sector that requires physical presence have been badly affected in Singapore. For instance, going for tuition lessons and work out classes is the norm for a lot of young and working adults before the pandemic struck us.
With the Circuit Breaker being implemented by the government to counter the spread of the virus, VUCA is predestined for such business owners. It has resulted in having all classes cancelled and operations to be seized immediately.
However, with adaptability, businesses are still able to counter to the stay home advisory. Tuition, yoga or even gym classes began to operate online for their clients to carry on in the comfort of their own homes via online platforms such as Zoom.
Being a market leader by going digital
Looking back on VUCA, an example of positive complexity is having the breakthrough to carry on their classes on an online platform, and keeping the business running during this harsh period. Being the fastest to adapt and emerging as a market leader, many businesses will realise that classes can be done online. On the other hand, an example of negative complexity refers to businesses that are not grasping the occurring changes and are refusing digitalism; resulting in a loss of clientele and business.
Going digital in Singapore
As Singaporeans carry on to stay home during this Circuit Breaker period, many have begun to look for ways to carry on their daily lives and usual activities. This has led to many businesses here to use the opportunity to move their operations online. The moment many organisations have reported that meetings have and can be conducted via Zoom, yoga instructors and teachers began experimenting as well. Based on a news report by CNA, one of the tuition centres has invested in 40 iPads for its teachers to bring home so that they can leverage technology to carry on conducting classes for their students. Yoga instructors have also began promoting their online classes on their social media platforms. That being said, most Singaporeans have also been receptive towards this change.
Understanding VUCA for your business
Through the current pandemic situation and implementation of the Circuit Breaker, let’s look into how VUCA can be seen for the yoga and tuition companies. Volatility can be seen through the rapid changes that were made by the government that affected the businesses’ operations. The more volatile the pandemic is, the quicker our government would have to make changes to tackle the virus. While this is happening, everyone is uncertain on how long will this COVID-19 last or if the Circuit Breaker be extended. Additionally, businesses are also uncertain on how long things are going to be affected for and what is going to happen next. As mentioned earlier, complexity can be seen in these businesses trying to operate via online platforms where their struggle is to use non-conventional methods to their advantage. On ambiguity, the instructors and tutors would face a lack of clarity and incomplete information about the situation, hence facing the difficulty in making decisions for their operations.
VUCA counterweight – VUCA Prime
Through the news report on the classes’ prevailing in online businesses, it can be seen that they have that they have adapted to this VUCA situation. It has helped them to better manage and overcome the situation better. A distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future, Bob Johansen managed to develop an effective leadership framework as a “VUCA counterweight” which is known as VUCA Prime to cope and overcome the unnerving VUCA world.
VUCA Prime focuses leaders on making decisions based on having Vision, Understanding, Clarity, and Agility.
Vision for the future
Let’s look into what these instructors and tutors did and how they do it to overcome the limitations imposed on their operations. Volatility can be countered with Vision as leaders look for ways to navigate through this turbulence to achieve success. Based on CMC Organisational Agility Practice Leader, Tom O’Shea mentioned that vision requires three vital questions: Why are we here? How will we be successful? What are our success measures? Without this vision, most of these operations would have to surrender to the hands of this pandemic and call it quits. As a business leader, once they can see where their business is going along with the situation, they would have begun preparing for countermeasures to ride through the wave. Knowing that classes cannot be resumed with people being present in class, the tuition centre mentioned earlier has decided to prepare for online classes with the sale of the iPads for its staff before the Circuit Breaker kicked in.
Understanding the situation at hand
Next, Understanding overcomes Uncertainty. As the saying goes “you will not know what you do not know”. As business leaders, you may have your vision, but this mindset needs to be shared and understood by everyone in the team on how they can contribute to the organisation’s success. Employees being the biggest stakeholder of the company, it is important to have two-way communication to shape new individual and team transformation towards the situation. It also helps to capture the elements of vision which include the strategies and success measures. Back to the tuition centre, now that the tutor’s vision has been aligned, they understood why the company had invested so much for so many gadgets during this period for everyone. With this understanding, all the tutors need to do now is to carry on providing classes using this alternative method, creating new strategies to engage students through the screen.
Creating clarity to manage a complex situation
On Complexity, this can be countered by having Clarity. As O’shea mentioned, Clarity comes from building disciplines around the core basics, reinforcing the real priorities. Though many of these instructors have never conducted classes using online platforms which can be daunting, a yoga instructor spoke that one of the best ways to weave out of the complexity of this method is to have internal and external feedback. This helps to eradicate the unnecessary complexity in their operations and conduct on the online platform. After some time, Clarity can be shown through re-examining and rebooting course conducts and even ownership, why are certain things being implemented in online classes and who is responsible for its success.
Being agile to be fast
Finally, Agility counters Ambiguity which is very crucial in this VUCA world and situation that we have right now. Being agile is all about creating quicker processes to sense and respond to inevitable ambiguous changes. Only through Agility, leadership can be strengthened, developing new and interesting strategies and methods to position themselves at a competitive advantage in the increasing face-paced market, better yet in this VUCA World. For example, after seeing how other organisations have been utilising Zoom to carry on their daily meetings, yoga instructors began experimenting with conducting online classes for their clients. One of the instructors that we have spoken to even told us he had offered to hold his first few online classes for free as he gets to test it out. After getting the hang of it and gaining the confidence of his clients, the business was back to usual for him. For the businesses that manage to have the quickest breakthrough to conduct courses online, their business would be able to be operational ready quicker to mitigate any further losses during this Circuit Breaker period.
Of course, with so much being shared about how these companies carried on operating using online platforms during the Circuit Breaker and adapt towards the VUCA situation imposed on them, the real question is: Why did they do it? The answer is pretty obvious, if they did not adapt and evolve enough out of this situation, many would be out of a job in only a matter of time. As we know that no one knows how long this COVID-19 pandemic will last. It is only right for them to work their way through this harsh time, turning disadvantages to their advantage. Disadvantages will always remain as it is if we do not find a solution to counter them and it will only be more stumbling blocks if we are not agile enough.
Change is the only constant
COVID-19 will pass and things will get better for everyone. But in this VUCA World, changes are bound to happen. So how are you adapting to these changes? How are you doing in implementing the VUCA Counter measures in your organisation? Hopefully, you are prepared, as change is the only constant.