The one with another acronym

If you’ve spent any time in and around corporations you will be no stranger to the TLA (three-letter acronym) and the jargon that develops within and around businesses. It reached a point that both of the last companies I worked for included internal jargon dictionaries as part of the induction pack.

Last week I was invited to attend a ‘Christmas Lecture’ hosted by the HR Consulting business Korn Ferry Whitehead Mann. The lecture was entitled ‘Executive to Leader’: Critical Issues in the Evolution of Senior Leaders and was given by Kevin Cashman who heads KFWM’s CEO Development practice.

Now as much as I love a good model I have a general aversion to TLAs (or in this case FLAs) and must admit my pre-hackles went up when Mr Cashman introduced me to yet another: VUCA. VUCA stands for Volatility, Unpredictability, Complexity & Ambiguity and came out of the US Army War College. It has since become more widely applied in leadership as a means of describing what leaders need to be able to deal with in order to successful lead people and organisations.

I must admit at this point my hackles went back down as I started to consider the 4 words used and actually how resonant they were for me, actually how they summed up the frustration I was feeling when I wrote about inertia at large and how pertinent it was in describing the current environment and what could make the difference between inertia and purpose.

In describing those that successful ‘harness’ the VUCA, Mr Chapman then went on to talk about the VUCA flip (he is American, it’s OK) and the aspiration that Volatility becomes Vision, Unpredictability becomes Understanding (of self, team, market), Complexity becomes Clarity and Ambiguity becomes Agility. How one goes to do that is the subject of Mr Cashman’s book “Leadership from the Inside Out” which I confess I haven’t yet started but will report back once I’ve had a go at it.

As an aside, it was the first event I’ve been to in a while with no hashtag so very little sharing of people’s reactions and thoughts aside from those over drinks after the lecture which to be honest were more focussed on the VUCA than the lecture!

As for my own personal VUCA it’s all sorted – all the presents are wrapped, there’s fuel in the car and the nurofen are in stock… 48 hours to go!

P.S. Thanks to Anna Penfold at KFWM for the invite and some marvellous post lecture snacks!


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