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?


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