From CEOpedia | Management online

The term "VUCA" was first used from military lingo in 1985 by United States Army War College, and it described conditions, arising from Cold War. VUCA is an acronym of four different words:

  1. V from Volatility,
  2. U from Uncertainty
  3. C from Complexity
  4. A from Ambiguity

Term VUCA is used as the definition in strategic leadership, more accurate, for emerging ideas (Nandram S.S., Bindlish K.P., 2017, page 3).


Volatility in VUCA describes company quality of functioning in rapid and significant changes. Volatile market changes quickly, prices of goods and services may rise or fall in a short period, and trends also may be different and reverse suddenly. Experiences in our company and market environments, like rate and speed of changes demand our accelerated responses and decision-making movements. These changes will keep accelerating over time. "The key to managing volatility is clarity of vision" (Praveen KS, 2018, page 17, 18).


The situation, where nothing is certain. Outcomes are unpredictable. Nothing in this world, in the market, in businesses, in collaborations is for sure. These times are very difficult to be clear of the present. Leaders of companies and businesses are forced to possess many different viewpoints to keep its position and gain completely new spot patterns, new insights, etc.. "The only certainty is uncertainty" (Praveen KS, 2018, page 18).


Leaders, owners and companies management must consider a plethora of interconnected factors resulting from market and economy in decision-making processes. They have to give up the pursuit of perfection and focus and seek new collaborations, mediate on complexities and seize the bargains. "Making sense of the chaos is a fundamental skill" (Praveen KS, 2018, page 18).


Ambiguity manifests a lack of clarity and difficulty to make clear how the situation is and defines impact and meanings of occurring events. This is the effect of "complex, ever-changing environments". In our rapidly growing and quickly changing world, no one will ever have enough information to instruct our decisions in businesses. "Our ability to manage risk and develop resilient behaviors in the face of ambiguity is crucial. (Praveen KS, 2018, page 19).

Succesfull leaders behaviors in VUCA World

We can mention a few actions that are very related to VUCA world, and are most accurate to follow with (Praveen KS, 2018, page 20):

  1. Trust your coworkers, people that work with you about their judgment and specialist expertise,
  2. You will never feel comfortable in never-stopped market, so get used to it,
  3. Be innovative, curious, search for information, keep your clear vision, stay focused and updated,
  4. Appreciate new, short-term answers.

Examples of VUCA

  • The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of a VUCA environment. With the rapid spread of the virus and the disruption it has caused to the global economy, organizations and individuals are facing unprecedented volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.
  • The global oil crisis of 2008 is another example of a VUCA environment. With the sudden drop in demand due to the global recession, the price of oil dropped dramatically, leading to instability in the global economy and uncertainty for oil-producing nations.
  • Another example of a VUCA environment is the rapid technological advancements in the 21st century. With the Internet of Things, automation, and artificial intelligence, organizations and individuals are facing increased complexity and ambiguity as they attempt to adapt to the changing landscape.

Limitations of VUCA

VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity) is an acronym used to describe the context of many business decisions. VUCA is often used to explain the current state of the global economy, but it also has a few limitations. These include:

  • A lack of clear boundaries: VUCA implies a world without clear boundaries, which can be difficult to navigate. This can lead to a lack of structure and organization within an organization, resulting in an inefficient use of resources.
  • Misinterpretations: VUCA can also be misinterpreted. It is often used to describe a chaotic environment, which can lead to a culture of uncertainty and risk-taking. This can lead to an over-reliance on short-term solutions, which can cause long-term problems.
  • Unpredictability: VUCA can also be unpredictable, as it relies on ever-changing external factors. This can lead to unexpected changes in the market, which can be difficult to plan for and manage.
  • Lack of control: VUCA can also lead to a lack of control. It is difficult to predict the future, so it is difficult to make sound decisions. This can lead to a lack of confidence and trust in decision-makers.

Other approaches related to VUCA

VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity) is a term used to describe the current environment in which businesses, organizations, and individuals must operate. Other approaches which help manage the current environment include:

  • Strategic Agility: This approach focuses on the ability to respond quickly and effectively to changes in the environment, whether they are short-term or long-term. The goal is to create a competitive advantage through quick decision-making and adaptation.
  • Scenario Planning: This approach involves creating multiple scenarios for the future and then planning for each one. This allows organizations to be prepared for a variety of outcomes and to adjust their strategies as needed.
  • Design Thinking: This approach focuses on creating solutions to problems that are creative and innovative. It involves understanding the user and the context in which they are operating, as well as exploring different possibilities.
  • Systems Thinking: This approach focuses on understanding the complex interactions between different elements in a system. It is used to identify problems and develop solutions that can be implemented across the system.

In summary, other approaches that help manage the current VUCA environment include strategic agility, scenario planning, design thinking, and systems thinking. All of these approaches focus on creating solutions that can be adapted quickly and effectively to the changing environment.

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Author: Mateusz Paduch