Roger Martin wrote an article titled My Love/Hate Relationship with VUCA: Don’t Let VUCA Paralyze Your Strategy (July 11, 2022).

« I have a love/hate relationship with the popular acronym for a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment — VUCA. Actually, the relationship is more hate than love because of the threat to strategy… »

« The concept of VUCA came out of the US Army War College in the late 1980s, influenced by a 1985 book by management scholars Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge. »

« As with many things that have migrated from the military to the business sphere (like strategy itself or supply chain), VUCA became an extremely popular business meme… Part of my reaction is love because the business environment really is VUCA. »

« What I don’t at all like is the popular if not dominant view in business that the environment is more VUCA now than at any point in the past. »

« This leads to the hate part. A now highly popular view in business is that we are today at such a uniquely heightened level of VUCA that our environment is too VUCA to do strategy. That is, because it is so darn VUCA, it would be futile to do strategy. The implicit thought seems to be that since VUCA is cresting right now, we will wait until our operating environment gets less VUCA when we will be able to make strategy choices. I hate that for many reasons, not the least of which is that not making a choice is in fact making a choice. It is the clear choice of maintaining the status quo because of fear over making any other choice during this heightened period of VUCA. That is choosing to rob yourself of a wide range of options and implicitly assuming that the status quo must be optimal. »

« It has always felt VUCA because it always has been VUCA. It has never been otherwise and it sure as hell never will be… I believe that things always feel more VUCA at any moment in history because they have not yet been resolved. »

« It is good, however, to recognize that the world is VUCA — as has always been the case — because that will encourage you to think of strategy as a technique for improving your chances of success rather than an approach that eliminates risk. Because the world is VUCA, nothing can eliminate risk. »

« Waiting to make strategy choices until things get less VUCA is, in fact, a strategy choice — a generally bad one. »

Roger Martin’s other Playing to Win/Practitioner Insights (PTW/PI) can be found here.

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