Over the last few decades, the business world has changed drastically. Rapid technological advances have created a society where access to the internet, smartphones, and social media are ubiquitous…not to mention the unpredictable changes brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. These factors have contributed to making an environment where change can be fast-paced, constant, and unpredictable.
The term VUCA, which was initially used for military operations, has been adopted to define today’s fast-changing business environment. VUCA is an acronym that stands for “Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous”.
To survive the agile world, organisations must implement culture change—a radical shift in attitudes, values, mindsets, and ways of interacting with the world.
Organisational culture shift can be a daunting task. But the alternative—business death as a result of a failure to adapt to the fast-changing marketplace—can be far more terrifying. The question isn’t whether you should implement organisational culture change but rather when and how to do it.
Let’s explore the steps to implementing organisational culture change in an agile world. We’ll start by defining what VUCA means.
“Organisational culture shift can be a daunting task. But the alternative—business death as a result of a failure to adapt to the fast-changing marketplace—can be far more terrifying. The question isn’t whether you should implement organisational culture change but rather when and how to do it.”
What Is VUCA?
VUCA is an acronym that stands for “volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.” These adjectives characterise the challenges of a rapidly evolving business environment.
The acronym was first developed by the US military in 1987 to describe the state of affairs post the cold war. It has since been adopted to aptly describe today’s corporate environment.
In 2009, Bob Johansen used VUCA in his book, Leaders Make the Future, to reflect the turbulent and unpredictable forces of change that could affect organisations. He argued that you need new skills, approaches and behaviours to manage in the face of the four VUCA threats.
Here are the four elements of VUCA:
- Volatility: Describes a situation in which things can shift abruptly and unexpectedly. This change is not always for the best.
- Uncertainty: Refers to situations where key knowledge is either unavailable or unreliable. It’s tough to forecast what will happen next because there isn’t enough clear and reliable information.
- Complexity: When a company has many different parts, it can be difficult to establish and maintain links. Often, there’s a lack of clarity on how decisions are made.
- Ambiguity: When something can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Depending on each individual’s point of view, a specific event can be interpreted in a variety of ways – leading to confusion.
A VUCA business environment can have many negative effects on individual team members and the organisation at large. Volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity can:
- Destabilise and demotivate team members
- Thwart career moves
- Paralyse decision making
- Necessitate constant retraining and reshaping
- Increase probability of making bad decisions
- Jeopardise long-term projects, developments and innovations
That’s just to mention just a few of the possible effects of an agile business environment.
Also read: How To Deal With Change In an Organisation
How to Implement Organisational Culture Change in a VUCA World
Although VUCA may appear to be unavoidable in some industries, you can manage yourself, your team, and your company to reduce its negative effects. You can even take advantage of it. Here are the key steps to implementing culture change in an agile/VUCA world:
Step #1- Define Current and Desired Culture
Each organisation is unique and its culture should reflect that. Using the current culture as a starting point, make a list of key mindset and behaviour modifications that will have the most impact in an agile environment. The best way to evaluate your current culture is through staff surveys and data analysis.
With an understanding of where your organisational culture is and where you desire to be, you can create a vision, values and objectives that resonate across the organisation. Articulating your organisation’s existing cultural reality and the desired end state should always be the first step in implementing culture change.
Also read: Anticipate Change and Transition Through It
Step #2- Start Culture Change at the Top
Effecting change without buy-in from executives in an organisation is difficult. The senior leadership in a company sets the tone for the rest of the employees. Therefore, top executives must be the face and voice of culture change.
For change to be successfully adopted, the C-suite must align balance, empower, articulate, and encourage even the most nuanced cultural shifts. Leaders must sell the vision and bring people along the journey
While successful culture change starts at the top, it shouldn’t remain there. Every employee in the company needs to be on-board, from the CEO down to the greenest intern.
Involve your team in implementing culture change through immersive training programs that equip them with the skills and capabilities needed in an agile world. The goal is to have change agents at every level of your organisation.
Step #3- Support Culture Change Efforts
Even the best-designed culture change projects might fail if the environment does not support—or worse, hampers—new mindsets and habits. Make sure that there are structures, processes, and technology in place to support cultural changes within your organisation.
The desired culture shift must be hardwired into the day-to-day operations of the company. For example, ensure that the office environment reinforces the desired culture. If you’d like to promote collaboration, invest in collaborative tools and create avenues for team work.
Align your culture with your organisational strategies and processes such as hiring, performance evaluation, compensation, and promotion.
Step #4- Monitor and Learn
Continuous learning is a key part of agile working. To measure the success of your cultural change objectives, regularly monitor progress and evaluate behavioural change and its impact on performance.
You can use pulse checks (short targeted surveys) to measure employee engagement and satisfaction. Relate employee engagement with other metrics that help determine the success and impact of your culture change efforts.
Your Next Steps…
Today’s business environment can be volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Organisations and business leaders must implement cultural shifts to meet the demands of the changing environment.
That said, implementing organisational culture change is easier said than done—various complexities may arise along the way. Cedar Africa Group provides leaders, managers, and organisations with the knowledge, skills and tools to drive successful change.
We have various development programs designed to help you build change competency in your organisation to boost business agility.
Cedar Africa Group is Prosci® primary partner in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda. Contact us today and let us help you improve your organisation’s capacity to respond to a VUCA world.