VUCA Tools Help in These Times of Coronavirus

Posted by Ann Deaton Share Your Voice


You have probably heard the term VUCA by now, especially given this crazy virus that has changed the world as we know it for these last weeks. VUCA is an acronym that stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. It’s a label that aptly describes all that we are experiencing. Labels can be comforting; it is reassuring to be able to name something. And recognizing the coronavirus as VUCA is at least a bit helpful in enabling us to see the dimensions we find so unsettling:

·      Volatile: The volatility of the coronavirus is the roller coaster of rapid change we are experiencing as it spreads throughout the world. More cases popping up, shortages in medical equipment, changes in all of our normal routines. Volatility whips us around in a way that is disorienting.

·      Uncertain: Uncertainty arises when what we knew for sure yesterday isn’t necessarily true today. What worked before is no longer working. With coronavirus, everything from our health care system to our economy is uncertain.

·      Complex: Complexity is all about the number of interconnected and interrelated factors that we are experiencing. The sheer volume of things that we need to be paying attention to and the fact that each one of these is interdependent with many others. Complexity can be overwhelming.

·      Ambiguous: Ambiguity refers to a lack of clarity. It’s like mixed messages or a fog that obscures the essence of what we are dealing with. The stress of ambiguity is that we can’t get a handle on what we can’t see.

VUCA by itself isn’t enough

Yet the issue I’ve always had with the term VUCA is that it describes what is, but doesn’t tell us how to move forward. A couple of years back, I decided to do something about that. I started by asking “If VUCA doesn’t help us keep moving, what does?” The answer didn’t come all at once, but when VUCA Tools™ emerged, it felt like a robust set of concepts and approaches to deal with VUCA times in our lives.

·      Values: What are your most deeply held values? What is most important to you? Our values give us a firm place to stand, something we know for sure. They help us to make decisions, to choose our focus, and to feel deeply rooted. Once you are clear about your values, you can identify ways to honor them in any new circumstances.

·      Us: Who are you connected to? Who do you count on to support you, and to challenge you? Who relies on you? Who sees the world in a way you don’t? Who has strengths you lack? None of us is a solitary being , even when we are asked to self-quarantine or socially distance.  Identifying your Us provides a rich resource of those who are part of your personal team. They are there to help, either consciously on purpose or just through their very presence in the world. Recognizing your Us makes it clear you are not alone, and that you have resources beyond yourself.

·      Curiosity: What do you wonder about? What do you need to learn? Where can you go to find information? What experiments can you do that will answer your questions? Our curiosity is innate--we are wired for learning, always looking to fill the gaps and to know. Embracing your curiosity creates a sense of optimism as you begin to collect information and experiences that provide what you most need to learn.

·      Aspirations: What do you want? Where are you headed? How will you know when you get there? Aspirations enable us to look out into the future to what is ahead. They provide that focus that helps us to understand what our current efforts are leading toward. Aspirations offer hope—there is somewhere you are headed that is different than the place you are now. Knowing our intention has a way of pulling us forward.


VUCA Tools: Values, Us, Curiosity, Aspirations. The first two, Values and Us, offer a solid foundation and the confidence that we have what we need. The other two, Curiosity and Aspirations, motivate us and enable us to move forward through the challenges of the present to the future we are in the process of creating. How will you use VUCA Tools today to respond to your challenges? How can we all use VUCA Tools to respond to our collective adversity in the coronavirus? How will we grow in the process?

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Small Ann Deaton I am a leadership coach, and Managing Partner in Bounce. I love to coach and facilitate with individuals and systems experiencing significant change and growth. The clients I work with, regardless of their age or position, are talented and creative individuals willing to look with fresh eyes at their challenges and opportunities, and to take action based on their discoveries. As a result, they find that they are capable of accomplishing far greater things than they ever imagined. What do you want to accomplish today? Who do you want to be?


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