Divine requirements or Buzzword?

#VUCABILITY (from “vuca”: volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) = the ability to act constructively and successfully in the face of increasing speed, complexity, contradiction and insecurity of economy and society. Also and especially in a board of directors. Are these “God-like requirements”? Is it a new buzzword? What is behind it? A search for clues.

Leadership in the vuca environment is currently a much-discussed term, we have abbreviated it to “#VUCABILITY”. Does it define “God-like requirements” that hardly any board member fulfils, as a board chairman recently put it? Or is it a buzzword that confuses rather than explains? It is now a truism that, despite their wealth of experience, many deserving board members are no longer optimally equipped for the future. On the other hand, a new generation of board members is growing up for whom agility is a way of life. But is agility alone enough to survive in a vuca environment?

Strategy emerges emergent

As the industrial age came to an end, the Board of Directors defined the strategy and the Executive Board implemented it. What was needed were managers who could optimise and increase efficiency, who were able to reduce costs, minimise risks and improve quality. Experience was a key value, experience increased solution competence. Considering that board members usually meet once a year for a strategy meeting and that digital transformation is forcing increasingly shorter management, innovation and product lifecycles on us, this is no longer very realistic. Strategy increasingly emerges emergent, experimental and more and more from operational management.

The Board of Directors becomes a brake pad

It is the responsibility of the Board of Directors to recognize this emergence, to promote experiments, to try them out in a learning way, to help steer them with clever partial decisions, and to keep an eye on long-term goals and possibilities – especially with regard to business survival. And this with relatively little interaction. One Chairman of the Board of Directors recently called this “God-like requirements that nobody on my Board of Directors fulfils”. He is probably not alone in this. Because the human type, which has the qualities that were still in great demand in the industrial age, is usually less able to cope with uncertainty, unplannability and changing framework conditions. Experience can therefore increasingly become a danger. There is a growing risk that the Board of Directors could become a brake or even a hindrance. Often, there is a lack of understanding and foresight in order to be able to hit strategically clever stakes in a digitalized context.

Keeping an eye on the big picture

The challenge is growing: the team has to be prepared for the new conditions. This requires in particular the increased capacity to keep an eye on the “big picture”, i.e. to be able to view events from an overarching perspective, to recognise patterns and contexts in a larger context, to integrate further perspectives, to be able to give intuitive and creative impulses to the company and to help shape the present from an uncertain, complex future.

Measure your VUCA capability!

This ability can be measured with psychometric methods. GetDiversity has introduced Rooke/Torbert’s “Leadership Development Profile” as a scientifically recognized measurement method for the VUCA capacity of executives in 2019. Since the beginning of the year, this measurement has been part of the admission process to the BoardClub of GetDiversity and is part of the accompanying program in BoardMentoring. In addition, corporate clients can use the Leadership Development Profile for self-evaluation of their existing Board of Directors.

An article by Esther-Mirjam de Boer, CEO GetDiversity GmbH

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