Leading Through VUCA

Leading Through VUCA

VUCA is gaining traction in the coaching world and certainly has application to the world of coaching church planters, pastors and network leaders. The notion of VUCA was introduced by the U.S. Army War College to describe the more Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous multilateral world which resulted from the end of the Cold War.  

Previously, I discussed how to Coach VUCA.  To take VUCA from diagnosing to action requires a different framework.  Today I will flip the framework to coach on leadership “agilitly” so that leaders can take action to navigate change effectively (see diagram above).  

While coaching a newly established pastor in a new congregation to enhance their small group ministry I asked the question: “What is the state of your current small groups?” This question led to a number of insights about the health of the groups, fruitfulness, purpose, model, support and training, etc. This assessment gave him a realistic view of what he had to work with.

As he explored the future of their current small groups, it was apparent what he could expect. People would be cared for, lives would be impacted and about 20% of the congregation would assimilate into a group over the course of a 12-month cycle. Dissatisfied with those outcomes, he was led to prayerfully consider the “best case scenario” for small group environments where “life” was the primary goal.  From that place he envisioned disciplemaking communities where personal and community transformation took place.  The values shifted from assimilation to disciplemaking, meeting for the purpose of meeting to service in the community and maintaining group participation to growth through evangelism.

The point of the VUCA model is that the more a leader knows about a situation and, the better able the leader is to predict the potential impact of the actions proposed; the more capable the leader becomes at navigating change.

Regarding the pastor and his small group vision. With a clearer sense of WHAT IS and the necessary RIGHT ACTIONS – the better able the church has become at incorporating the vision for small group ministry.  

Once a vision is clarified then the following key questions are helpful when coaching a leader to Lead Through VUCA.

Vulnerability: Be Reliable

  • What promises do you need to keep in this situation?

Uncertainty: Be Trustworthy

  • How can you engage people?

Complexity: Be Direct

  • What information do people need to have?

Ambiguity: Be Understandable

  • What is the most compelling manner to articulate your vision?

As you coach leaders, this simple framework will be very familiar. See if these questions help you raise your effectiveness as you coach leaders who initiate bold new visions to make more and better disciples.  Please submit questions below that you have used to help leaders, Lead Through VUCA.

Coaching VUCA

Coaching VUCA

The term VUCA is gaining traction in the coaching world and certainly has application to leader development, church planting and church growth.  In addition, it can aid coaches serving leaders in those arenas. The notion of VUCA was introduced by the U.S. Army War College to describe the more Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous multilateral world which resulted from the end of the Cold War.

The “V” in the VUCA acronym stands for volatility. The challenge is unexpected or unstable and may be of unknown duration, but it’s not necessarily hard to understand; knowledge about it is often available.

The “U” in the VUCA acronym stands for uncertainty.  Despite a lack of other information, the event’s basic cause and effects are known.  Change is possible but not a given.

The “C” in VUCA stands for complexity. The situation has many interconnected parts and variables.  Some information is available or can be predicted, but the volume or nature of it can be overwhelming to process.

The “A” in VUCA stands for ambiguity.  Casual relationships are completely unclear.  No precedents exist; you face “unknown unknowns.”

A month ago I was flying through Istanbul after training leaders in the coaching process and skills in various VUCA regions around the world. Complex factors play a major part in the way they, and we, approach discipleship and leader development. It is important to be mindful of these four elements for leaders who make disciples and plant churches.  Think of the missionary that imports Western approaches to evangelism and you get a sense of the paradox.

For instance, one leader I know is leading a congregation in an agricultural community and another is relocating from the the east coast of the US to plant a multi-ethnic church in the same community. The established congregation is reaching middle class families from primarily European backgrounds. The church plant will deal with a very different socio-economic group of people even through they are relatively close geographically.  It is clear that the approach each leader takes to engage people will be unique; but the more agile the leader to assess and adapt, the more effective they will become. 

VUCA elements of any community/culture, whether India, Turkey or the US are significant and must not be ignored. The chart above provides a simple framework to bring perspective to VUCA.  If you would like to view a brief explanation of the VUCA framework, click “A Framework for Understanding VUCA” (Harvard Business Review article which is referenced in this blog).  

Next week I’ll talk about leader development in a VUCA environment and how to flip the framework to establish agile leaders.  What are some questions you use to help leaders work through the VUCA framework?

Join us for an overview of the COACHING Church Planter Collective

Join us for an overview of the COACHING Church Planter Collective

The World Cup is in full swing now. 6 teams have already qualified, but 10 spots are still up for grabs. It will be an exciting week as each of the groups finish their final round of games to determine who will advance to the Round of 16. My favorite group is Group F with Mexico (6 points), Germany & Sweden (tied with 3 points) and S. Korea (0 points). The final two games will be played on Wednesday this week with the top two spots, still to be decided.

Ironically, Germany who lost to Mexico in the opening match could come out on top of their group with a win over S. Korea and a Mexico loss, versus Sweden. Germany’s coach, Joachim Low, has led the Germans to the final in the last two World Cups – with one championship in 2014. Repeating as World Champions is a massive challenge that only countries have ever managed e.g. Italy (1934–1938) and  Brazil (1958–1962).

The pressure is immense. As the game evolves every four years, coaches and players must adapt. This is the challenge Germany face under Low; but if it can be done, Germany will figure out a way.

The same can be said for your ability to support leaders who are planting churches. New methods come and go, cultural attitdues towards church and issues of faith are always at stake in a world that is in a state of change – remember my previous blogs explaining VUCA: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex & Ambiguous. But principles last the test of time. In training church planting coaches I’ve found that a principle-based approach, for the coach to follow, can help coaches support planters as they navigate the life-cycle of a church plant regardless of the model they are implementing, the context they are planting or the challenges they face.

  • How long have you been coaching church planters?
  • Has it been a while since you attended coach training?
  • Do you want to work on your coaching skills to support church planters?

You might be interested in the COACHING Church Planter Collective to revisit or be introduced to a principle-based approach. I would appreciate your feedback on a good time to hold the informational webinar based on the three options available, please click here so that we can schedule the best time to meet as a group, or individually. Look forward to connecting with you!

International Coach Federation (ICF) Coach Mentor Requirement available!

An added value is to apply the 10 hours in the COACHING Church Planter Collective to your ICF Coach Competencies, Mentor Requirement. More information will be available in the overview.

Here are a couple of related resources to apprentice church planters:





Agile Leaders Navigate Change

Agile Leaders Navigate Change

VUCA is gaining traction in the coaching world and certainly has application to the world of coaching church planters, pastors and network leaders. The notion of VUCA was introduced by the U.S. Army War College to describe the more Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambigious multilateral world which resulted from the end of the Cold War.

The best VUCA leaders are characterized by change-agent skills, a clearly defined change process and an intimate understanding of how to manage change.

The dynamics of change individually and corporately can be complex but with care, the process can be managed in a positive manner.

As a family we are preparing for our oldest to leave home and attend university this fall. This will be our first. If you have gone through this, perhaps you can relate – we are riding a steep learning curve. We, Gina and I, are learning to be very intentional to make sure our son is anticipating the benefits and challenges for his new found freedom. At the same time, managing the emotions on the home front.

Healthy small groups experience this dynamic when they release leaders to start-up new groups. We are going through these growing pains right now as our small group is sending off 50% of our group to join our church’s first new church plant. Our response – to celebrate the work of God in our community, have a party for the missionaries that we are sending-off and prepare for the next one.

Churches that plant churches experience similar emotional responses when they release their first daughter church. Churches that get through this first pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby become more adapt at future births. But the same emotional responses occur to varying degrees: denial, anger, bargaining, depression testing and acceptance.

One resource that I use in coaching leaders in managing change is the Change Management Skill Builder. This resource offers a brief yet concise understanding the way change works with a simple 6-step response:

  • Involve
  • Inform
  • Initiate
  • Implement
  • Review.

See if the Change Management Skill Builder helps you sharpen your Change Management Skills.