VUCA Leadership: A Guide to Surviving and Thriving in Chaotic Times
By Brigadier General (Retired) Barney Forsythe, Ph.D., Karen Kuhla McClone, Ph.D., and Dan Rice, Tuesday, January 19, 2021
*This article was originally published by Chief Executive*
This is part 1 of a 2-part series. Read Part 2, "Leading Through VUCA: CEOs Focus on Culture".
In 2018, we published an article, Excelling in a VUCA Environment Requires a Learning Mindset, exploring how corporate leaders excel in a dynamic business environment, which we characterized using an acronym developed by the U.S. Army in the mid-1990s—VUCA. VUCA stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous and was coined by the Army to describe the global operational environment after the Cold War. In that article, we presented five strategies for success: shaping organizational culture around mission and values, leveraging technology, aligning organizational structures, establishing a learning organization and developing leaders.
After the Covid-19 global pandemic hit in early 2020, we wanted to learn more about how these strategies were employed during one of the greatest disruptions in a century; you might call it “VUCA on steroids.” We wanted to know what it was like for executives and their organizations when Covid hit. Were they able to maintain their corporate culture, and if so, how did they do it? What strategies, which we identified in our earlier study, were successful, and how did they put these strategies into action? What will the “next normal” look like for their organizations?
To answer these questions, we interviewed six CEOs/presidents from a variety of industries (two of whom, as indicated by the asterisk, participated in our 2018 study):
Joe DePinto* – President and CEO, 7-Eleven
Tony Guzzi* – Chairman, President and CEO, EMCOR Group
Ken Lamneck – President and CEO, Insight
Ameet Mallik – EVP and Head of U.S., Novartis Oncology
Antonio Pietri – President and CEO, Aspen Technology
Doug Sieg – Managing Partner, Lord, Abbett & Co. LLC