A Whole Lotta VUCA

In the mid-80s, the Army War College developed a term to describe the global environment at the end of the Cold War.  I use it in our household to describe ever increasing amounts of chaos, looking to my husband and stating with a knowing look, “That’s a whole lotta VUCA.” 

In the same way, COVID and our collective response to it has been a “whole lotta VUCA.”  This acronym stands for:

  • Volatile- Change, with varying levels of frequency and magnitude  
  • Uncertain- Unknowns, lack of information concerning issue and events 
  • Complex- Multiple factors and forces contributing to a sense of confusion 
  • Ambiguous- Unclear even when information is present; unable to identify the unknowns  

How do we respond and what do we need in the craziness of this type of environment?  Regardless of our context, we need more VUCA! Just a different kind, and ideally from the Best Source.   

  • Vision 
  • Understanding 
  • Clarity 
  • Agility 

To withstand the volatility of constant and often dramatic changes, we need Vision that provides the drumbeat of what we’re about and why we’re aiming at the target ahead.  To combat the unknowns, we need to gain understanding about ourselves, others, and our environment.  To confront the confusion of the complex, we need to break things down into clear, concise, manageable priorities bringing clarity to what’s in front of us. To resist getting bogged down and the temptation to make assumptions, decisions and plans based on what worked in the past and old paradigms that may not fit these new situations, we need to remain responsive and agile. 

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.
Psalm 16:6-7

In practice, a few tools have helped me fight VUCA with VUCA. One of those tools is the Tactical Pause.  In the Army, we have a saying: “No plan survives contact with the enemy.”  VUCA happens, and rather than keep doing what we were doing with a greater sense of urgency, we need to have the discipline to pause, assess the situation, and see if we need to adjust.   

Emotions are often indicator lights that we can’t ignore. They instruct us that something is going on beneath the surface.  But I need God to counsel me on what to do about it.  Am I taking the time to pause and ask God what this emotion is saying?  

“What am I believing right now? About You Lord, about others, about myself?  What is the truth?  What do you want me to do about it? Redirect my steps .” 

I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Psalm 16:8

Picture of Marie Hatch

Marie Hatch

West Division Deputy Director Military Mission
West Division Deputy Director Military Mission

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