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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

What is V.U.C.A.?

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


December 05, 2016

V.U.C.A. is a term being used in the business world which is an acronym for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. We think it is useful to those implementing Adaptive Schools as it describes the world of schools, as well.

Volatility refers to the unexpected or unstable challenges where knowledge is often unavailable. This can come in the form of new legislation, political upheaval resulting in new policies at a board of education level, or even just constant turnover of staff.

Uncertainty is often caused by external events beyond our control, even though we may understand the cause and effects. Examples might be a new superintendent, changes in demographics, or new curriculum.

Complexity is well known in the Adaptive Schools work. It describes an interconnected system with multiple variables all interacting in unpredictable ways. The ELL students are served by multiple staff members is one example. Another is the nature of a PLC working as individuals and as a team.

Ambiguity is the state of having “unknown unknowns.” Causal relationships are invisible and it is almost impossible to predict the future. The US presidential election has left states and school districts in a state of ambiguity. Court cases impacting schools also have this effect.

Which of the four elements of V.U.C.A. are most prevalent in your system? How do energy sources contribute to effectively intervening to create forward momentum? Which element is most impacting you personally? How are States of Mind resources for you remaining efficacious in challenging times?

Source: Bennett, N. & Lemoine, G. J. “What VUCA really means for you,” Harvard Business Review. January-February, 2014.

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