Why the end of the Cold War can prepare you for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

VUCA was as a term employed by the U.S. Army to describe the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity of the situation after the Cold War. As we enter a period of great change and uncertainty in our society and economy, this concept seems more suitable now than ever and provides a checklist of considerations for any business wanting not just to survive but thrive in the times ahead.

I feel incredibly fortunate that 95% of Kubrick’s workforce is made up Millennials and now, a rapidly increasing number of Gen Z’ers. These generations have only known the “VUCA age” and though often unfairly lambasted by the media, they have not really been afforded the luxury of my generation’s many financial safety blankets. As a result, we have two generations in the workforce who have only known rapid change and uncertainty about their future career. These generations are now agile in thought and lifestyle and have come to expect this in the workplace.

There has been much written about how to manage Millennials and Generation Z, some of it good and some of it bad. We are now at a time where, for the first time ever, we have four different generations working together in the workforce; Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z. All with different values, skills, goals and mindsets, shaped by their experiences. In these circumstances having a tailored generational engagement and management approach to each specific generation starts to become very complex, especially when you try and accommodate all of this into your company or project goals. It also begs the question if this approach, with all this effort, will actually be worth it?

While Kubrick has a young workforce, providing the advantages associated with a talent pool who are intrinsically agile, digitally native, and have a mindset ready to take advantage of the opportunities of Industry 4.0, I believe this is only part of the formula required to succeed. Ensuring your business, teams, and projects are focused and correctly prepared is the other part of the formula. Having a leadership culture attuned to the risks and opportunities of a VUCA world should enable all generations to be engaged and create an environment where each generation is able to contribute their skills and experience for the benefit of others to prepare and adapt.

Using VUCA as a framework I've developed a guide which any organisation or project team could use to assess and prepare for the fourth industrial revolution:

Volatility:

Be it external or internal volatility, understanding how the constantly shifting world and markets in which you operate could potentially impact on you and your business is key. To maintain this awareness, be disciplined and keep a living Risk Matrix. Make this a product of constant feedback from your clients and staff – understand and anticipate change. All levels of your workforce will have a different lens and therefore will give you a valuable and unique view of the challenges you could face. Embedding this process of anticipating change will position you better to respond to volatility.

Socialise this Risk Matrix, ensure people own it, are involved in how to mitigate the risks and are always aware of it.

Uncertainty:

I believe one the biggest risks of all, is not taking a risk and becoming paralysed with indecision and fear. It is key to keep moving forward, because only once you start moving in a direction will you really know if the decision you have made is correct and you then make any appropriate changes. To enable and test your decision making, use scoring mechanisms and a dashboard of key principles that stand endure and guide your strategy. It could be rules in the business or project that rarely change and applying them to your Decision Framework. Having a core set of values and principles which you can refer to can be a valuable navigation tool when faced with uncertainty.

Complexity:

It is often said that perfection can often become the enemy of good. This is particularly true when scenarios increase in complexity. A more organic and agile approach to overcoming challenges has aided Kubrick in overcoming difficult and complex challenges. Breaking down a seemingly overwhelming and complex problem for small teams to then attack and resolve can promote a culture which is comfortable with the reality that  the result may never be “perfect”. Inevitably circumstances rapidly change and therefore the solution will be required to change with it to stay useful and relevant. It is more valuable to spend time ensuring the Clarity of The Goal and that your team understand what you want to achieve. From there, foster a culture around delivery and responsivity for a single agile team playing their part to achieve the greater result. To return to military comparisons, this approach to planning and problem solving is often referred to as “Mission Command” - focusing on the what and why, not the how, as the how is likely to change.

Ambiguity:

The fun is trying to find the solution and ambiguity is the pitch on which you play. Getting comfortable with the reality that ambiguity is a constant, is the first step. It requires continuous communication around the actions mentioned above to ensure that as a team you are moving forward. While we may never escape the ambiguity of a rapidly changing world, and our place in it, as leaders we have a responsibility to empower our teams to make the decisions which will help them navigate this ambiguity.

Kubrick Group offers organisations an alternative way to solve their data challenges. Established in 2016, we are a rapidly growing specialist data consultancy. We employ the brightest junior professionals and transform them into data experts during our intensive, in-house and market leading four-month development programme. Our expert consultants then help our clients along their data journey.

by Simon Walker

Posted on July 23, 2019