By Ruth Jandeska
Have you ever heard the term VUCA? It originated with the U.S. Army years ago after the Cold War, to describe the ambiguity of the world. The acronym stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Volatility refers to fluctuations and turbulence, uncertainty refers to future events that cannot be foreseen, complexity refers to the interconnection of the many variables, and ambiguity refers to lack of clarity. While these terms are related, they do represent different areas of an environment.
The whole world is in a VUCA state now because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We can see VUCA in the supply of PPE and everything related to manufacturing, educational services, restaurant industries and food production, retail services, transportation, recreation, and so much more. Even the environment is in a positive VUCA state as carbon emissions plummet.
Over the past few weeks, we have heard over and over that these are unprecedented times, that life will never be the same, and that we will never return to “normal,” whatever that normal used to be. But the reality is, we are always in a VUCA state. Change is constantly present, and complete stability is an illusion. Yet nimble leaders are able to work with this challenge, to see VUCA not as an enemy, but rather the conditions in which their institutions can still thrive, through collaboration and innovation. By repurposing the acronym to Vision, Understanding, Clarity and Agility, they become agents of positive change and create a future amid chaos.
How can each of us begin to take such an approach in this pandemic? In the post-Easter season, it is worth remembering the apostles’ lives after Jesus’ death. Their world was a VUCA world. Their Messiah came, taught, healed, and promised them a new life. But then he was gone. What were their lives supposed to look like from now on? Volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous indeed was their world. They mourned and grieved his death. They feared for their own lives. Some were filled with anger, others filled with doubts.
Probably still confused, they eventually came back together and prayed. They had seen their risen Lord, and he had reminded them about God’s promise. Their sense of meaning and purpose had been galvanized when he explained the scriptures to them on the road to Emmaus. They began to adapt. They prayed and they waited.
What are you holding on to during these challenging times?
What practices or rituals are helping you to remain centered and whole amid the chaos? What is helping you rekindle your sense of mission and purpose in life?
Ruth Jandeska, BCC, is director of pastoral care at Providence Health in Columbia, SC. This reflection is adapted from an email to employees.