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Thriving post-pandemic…it’s a WICKEDD VUCA+ world out there

In the third in our series focused on post-pandemic leadership and organisational development, David Walker outlines his ideas about how to progress to a 'new normal' and set yourself up to thrive.


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In previous articles I have talked about my view that the term VUCA (a generally-accepted acronym used to describe the Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity of activities and situations) doesn’t quite cut it anymore. I have talked about the term VUCA+ as being representative of the current (pre-coronavirus pandemic) reality. I described VUCA+ in my article in September 2019

Every issue we face as a species and planet has so many facets and vested interests, that there is much more to this than can be described as simple(!) VUCA. VUCA+ is my shorthand that encapsulates the inter-relatedness of everything,…. The scale and complexity of the challenge is too big for us to reasonably contemplate.”

What we are seeing now is VUCA+ at work. As we pass through the current global pandemic, what do we now know? Most of the world is taking measures to contain the spread of the virus, with varying degrees of success. “Best practice” is no more. Empirical research is unreliable at best, and historic analysis is fairly worthless. Perfect information has never been less perfect. Political views and dogma and their conflict with medical and scientific views have been very apparent. Public health versus economic viability are in direct conflict.

What don’t we know? As the world gets to grips with the coronavirus and all of its impacts, there is a sense that structured thinking and strategic rebalancing must start to come to the fore. It is better, in my view, that strategic actions take over from the tactical ones that people in all settings have been forced to take. That is very easy to say of course, and not so easy to do.

However, there will come a time in all of our lives, both at home and work, where we have to start to make more strategic decisions. There are a range of questions, applying at both home and work, including;

  • What is my/our future strategic path?

  • How do I/we make a living in this ‘new normal’?

  • How do I lead my colleagues towards a revised strategic direction?

  • How will what I/we do impact on those around me?

There is a sense though that planning for the long-term is futile (VUCA+ again). A couple of years ago my colleague Nicky Carew and I wrote about how wicked issues (‘wicked’ is a term used often in organisations to refer to apparently insurmountable problems) may not be realistically be solved, but doing nothing is not an option. Thinking about the post-pandemic world and planning for it is definitely wicked in this sense, as no-one can really contemplate what ‘new normal’ might look like with any degree of certainty.

However by moving in the most appropriate general direction we contended that progress could be made on fixing the problem. Importantly, trying to develop a masterplan to follow slavishly, is not only a waste of time and energy but could be a disasterous decision.

To help resolving wicked issues Nicky and I developed our WICKEDD approach, which can equally be applied to thinking about how to thrive in a post-pandemic world – even though we don’t know what that world will look like:

“Wicked issues need WICKEDD© solutions”

  • WHAT, WHY, WHERE - taking a helicopter view of the situation with no preconceived solutions.

  • INTERDEPENDENCIES - working out all of the aspects of the wicked issues, getting to grips with the interconnectivity.

  • CAUSALITY - what are the root causes in ‘old normal’, what is taking us away from the route to our ‘new normal’?

  • KNOWLEDGE - what do you know, what don’t you know, what do you really need to know?

  • ENGAGE - who needs to be involved to help diagnose how to handle the situation and to create collaboration?

  • DIAGNOSE - now better informed, what is the full current information and where do you need to get to - what is your vision for the new normal state?

  • DO - the action points you have identified and monitor impact. What new adaptive outcomes have emerged, what loose frameworks may help make people more adaptive?

Each of the facets of WICKEDD help shape what needs to be done to get to a fully-rounded action plan, and with agility in execution get control of a wicked issue. This approach is equally applicable to one’s work, home and community lives.

What will the post-pandemic outcome be for us all? Does anyone really know? People will have their desires - perhaps they hope life will be as it was previously, or something perceived to be better. Whichever way, in reality few people will contend that personal and work lives will revert to how they were before the pandemic.

Ultimately the objective will be to move to a state of thriving. Get to a new normal - or acceptable normal, and make the best of it. This I believe will be evolutionary, and will require short-term strategic plans, with a general direction towards your aspirational ‘new normal’. For example, businesses will need to think about their general direction of travel, the implications for products and solutions, for people, premises, technology, how customers will react and so on. Individuals will think about how they and their families adapt, which of their previous plans and desires are still relevant, what needs to change – and a whole lot more.

Everyone’s plans will evolve, and that evolution will be impacted by one’s own actions and the actions of supranational organisations, governments, businesses, communities, neighbours, friends….

Recognising the VUCA+ nature of what is happening and taking a flexible but strategy-based WICKEDD approach to developing your part of ‘new normal’ will help you react as that new normal evolves. That will help you thrive.



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Contact David at davidwalker@thechangemakergroup.com


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