If you’re an executive who’s responsible for the health and performance of a retailer, restaurant group, hotel chain, airline, or fill-in-the-blank for almost any other business category, you are likely getting VUC’D. If you’re a leader with any responsibility for people, innovation and growth today, you are most certainly operating in a constant, just-in-time, everything-feels-like-it’s shifting storm. As a leader, you’re under a new level of pressure in this new operating environment.
The U.S Army War College introduced the idea of VUCA at the end of the Cold War to define the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous multilateral world that we now operate in. Add in constant digital disruption and that’s when you can get VUC’D.
Working alongside leaders of both multi-billion dollar organizations and early stage startups, we help them to examine the consequences, and anticipate and manage the impact of this VUC’D world. The business categories they operate in are changing constantly and the leadership principles built on anticipation, preparedness and adaptability have never been more relevant. Leaders today must be masters of situational awareness and have a high EQ to manage businesses and guide teams through the new business climate change that we are experiencing. With the one-touch, empowered consumer who has 24/7 access to instant information, peer-to-peer reviews, greater selection, convenience and value, almost every established business category has been (or is in the process of being) VUC’D.
Meet the VUC’Rs. The digital natives and the category disruptors who, like jujitsu masters, are rewriting the rules of every category. The founders of these brands see where the consumer is underserved, understand the impact of the inefficiencies and inconveniences, have identified the glaring gaps and where the untapped value hides, and they are delivering a radical new solution to disrupt a category or create a new one. Think Amazon, Airbnb, UBER, Snapchat and Stitchfix to name but a few. They are operationally excellent, agile, strategic and know how to deploy teams. They understand the powerful equation of convenience, value, service and empowerment and how to execute. Decisively. If your brand has become complacent or tired, look around for the VUC’R in your category. Do you know who they are? What are they doing that you can learn from? How are they changing your category and customer expectations? How should you adapt?
General Stanley McChrystal’s book, Team of Teams outlines some incredibly practical principles on how to operate in today’s ever-changing environment. It’s a reminder of how imperative tools like common sense, data-driven insights, design thinking and clear communication are when dealing with complex challenges. When you’re pinned down in the middle of the fight and taking flak on all fronts, it’s easy to look past these brilliant basics. While nothing can fully prepare leaders for, or prevent the effects of such a volatile climate, these Uncommon Principles will remind us to:
1. FRAME THE MISSION
Identify the enemy, whether it’s an inefficiency, complacency or a competitor. Define the problem you’re going to solve.
2. ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
Leaders don’t have to be the smartest people in the room, but they do have to ask the right questions and create the space for others to thrive.
3. DATA IS KEY, BUT INSIGHTS TELL STORIES
Make sure you’re paying attention to the right indicators. Turn data into insights that tell a story, keep your head up and pay attention to the world outside.
4. USE SIMPLICITY LIKE A SUPER POWER
Complexity is like a business cancer. It creates layers of people, time and cost. Examine every area of your business and ask why we do it this way. Redesign for the agile and simplified way.
5. CRAWL. WALK. RUN.
Move too fast and you will likely crash and burn. Move too slow and you will get crushed. The mantra of Crawl. Walk. Run. keeps it real.
6. DIGITAL IS JUST FOR STARTERS
If you don’t understand the power of digital or you’re discounting its power to disrupt your business, you’re going to get VUC’D.
7. AND DON’T FOGET, IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU
Put the customer at the center of every decision you make and every solution you design for and you won’t go too far wrong. And that means you really do have to know who your customer is.