Build change capabilities for the VUCA world, leveraging COVID-19 as an accelerator

 

We live in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world (VUCA). Yes. Nevertheless, this was for quite some people a theoretical concept; adopted mostly on paper. And then Covid-19 arrived. Almost every organisation has experienced serious financial impact, mainly because of a reduced customer demand (*). But along with every crisis, great initiatives, people, and companies stood up as well. What are key traits that we should remember, going forward to ensure that you continue to build the organisational change capabilities required now?

"In a VUCA world it is more important to be clear than to be right"

Change Prof. Peter de Prins, Vlerick Business School, founding partner of LQ and co-author of the book ‘Six Batteries of change’ 

Lead with purpose and clarity

In a VUCA context, leaders that have created meaning and purpose in their company, find a foundation and set of values that guide critical and decisive action in times of uncertainty. In combination with pragmatic strategic scenario and business impact planning, they energise their organisation for success by touching both head and heart.

 

Continue to say NO

Covid-19 triggered a razor-sharp focus on business value adding activities (*). Eliminating distractions and focus as a team, is often easier in times of crisis. The meetings initiated to discuss what to stop, de-prioritize or fade out are great rituals that need to be maintained.

Focus is a stabilizing force that leads to insight, productivity, and innovation

This also includes cutting costs deeper, especially in those areas that are considered non-strategic in the future.

 

Nurture the can-do mentality and growth mindset

In a VUCA world we heavily rely on the can-do mentality portrayed during Covid-19 (*). This mentality is to be nurtured by stimulating a growth mindset; feeling comfortable to take on challenges, take advantage of feedback, adopt the most effective problem-solving strategies, provide feedback, and be persistent in seeking to accomplish goals.

 

Institutionalize pivoting

Beer brewers inspire us by producing hand sanitizers, entertainment businesses transform themselves into a COVID-19 care centre,... Great examples of companies who dare to pivot their complete offering. Resilient companies remain steadfastly focused on how they can stay relevant and transform based on sudden opportunities. These organizations continuously look forward and correct themselves so that change is being anticipated routinely and addressed proactively.

Leverage the global unifying change leadership language 

Suddenly we are the “owners” of a change leadership language which everyone can relate to, no matter whether you talk about the bus driver, plant director, chief commercial officer, living in Asia, Europe or Africa. Leveraging the COVID-19 language, success and failure of change strategies can be easily connected to their impact: did the change initiative land into daily behaviour of people or not?

Use a playbook with 3 main steps to navigate your next crisis

We are pretty sure that COVID-19 will not be our last crisis. Wether you face an internally or externally triggered crisis, remember to take three steps:

1| Take the pressure off with immediate fire-fighting actions

2| Apply scenario thinking to crack the meaning and way to conquer the new reality

3| Re-contract on ambitions, goals and priorities and communicate it properly to the whole organisation. This helps you to continue investing in your future, to never stop innovating and to not let fear and uncertainty rule.

 

In short, leading with purpose and clarity, continue to say NO, nurture the can-do mentality, institutionalize pivoting, leverage the global unifying language to clarify what change leadership is all about and using 3 main steps to navigate a next crisis are the key traits that ensure you to build the organisational change capabilities now and in the future.

 

We hope you enjoyed this reading. Feel free to reach out to us on how we can help you building your change capabilities.

 

Anne Kloosterboer, General Manager LQ Netherlands

Lisette Weersink, Managing Director SPRING TODAY


(*) SPRING TODAY and LQ joint survey: How COVID-19 affects organizations and their change agenda, April/May 2020