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Welcome to the Era of Uncertainty

Welcome to the Era of Uncertainty

David Ross
VUCA Strategist

I’m always impressed with how team managers solve problems. Juggling resources, alone, to meet quality, time and budget expectations is never easy.  Yet, more and more, managers are confronting different kinds of problems which they haven’t received training or support for.

Something Wicked Comes This Way

If you’ve never heard the term ‘wicked problems’ before, you’ve certainly been exposed to them. Wicked problems include climate change, inequality, crime, and obesity, to name a few. 

While linear problems are understandable and easy to gain consensus from stakeholders with regards to the causes of the problem and the solution, wicked problems are a wholly different matter. There are several matters that contribute to their ‘wickedness’; namely:

  • It is difficult to define a wicked problem. It never ceases to fascinate me when I ask a diverse group “just what is the problem?” how different the responses can be.
  • Wicked problems can have several root causes, each of which has a particular value, depending on who you talk to.  Every wicked problem can be a root cause of another wicked problem.
  • Each wicked problem is unique, has no precedent and no clear end point. There are no clear and confident solutions to wicked problems.

And these very different, wicked problems are part of an ever-bigger change that we are witnessing.

…But That’s Only Part of the Story

Even if we hadn’t been grappling with the pandemic over the past few years, we had already been experiencing great change.  The momentous and uncertain change experienced is reflective of a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous, VUCA.

When people consider volatility, they may think of the frequent stakeholder conflict now present. In this context, however, volatility conveys the explosive speed of change now experienced. Think the technological advancements – and their implications, for example.

Increased uncertainty implies there will often be times when we won’t be confident in our predictions of how a situation will unfold, even with our intervention.

Part of the reason for uncertainty lies in the deep complexity associated with so much that societies need to deal with. There’s a level of intricacy and a sum of too many interconnected parts associated with resolving key issues.

And, compounding this, is the ambiguity associated with understanding context. When looking at opportunities and challenges, different people nowadays interpret data in different ways and assign meaning where others see none.

While each facet of VUCA has implications, greater disruption occurs due to the interconnected sum of their parts. Wicked problems interconnect with other wicked problems, creating increasing VUCA. And that has seismic implications for how team managers continue to, well, manage.

What Got You to ‘Here’ Won’t Get You to ‘There’

I could talk to you for ages about wicked problems and their implications; likewise, I could talk to you for ages about a VUCA World and the implications this has for managers.  But, the critical message for you, as a manager, is to consider how the skills and traits that you excel in, the skills and traits that propelled you into your management position, may now be an obstacle to future success.

What got you successfully to here will not get you successfully to ‘there’.


What has change looked like, or felt like, for you over the past two to five years when it comes to economic, social, environmental, or technological issues?

What does this change mean for how you manage? Can you manage everything on your own?

How do you respond to wicked problems? Do you try to resolve them with your own technical solutions?

Lets have a productive and fruitful discussion during and after this free webinar. See the deatils below


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