Managing Your Lab in the VUCA World
Over ten years ago, I stumbled onto the concept of VUCA which was a framework for how the military had to adapt to the rapidly changing world relating to military actions and strategies that would need to evolve in the modern world. Past military history can’t easily be used to suggest future practices in the nuclear world. This is crucial thinking to how to train future leaders on managing challenges that will come. The concept started to find its way into the business world later as a variety of new/disruptive technologies and thinking changed the effectiveness of past practices and directed us toward new strategies.
The VUCA principle suggests that the modern operating environment is characterized by:
Volatility -The nature, speed, volume, magnitude, and dynamics of change
Uncertainty-The lack of predictability of issues and events
Complexity-The confounding of issues and possible chaos
Ambiguity-The haziness of reality and mixed meaning of conditions
Whoa, doesn’t this sum up the last 2 1⁄2 years of managing your lab and life in the pandemic world? It was an amped up discontinuity for any lab even in well-organized and managed situations. It is also establishing the context for the future as we have had to change quickly due to circumstances that are out of our control.
Your VUCA going forward needs to reflect operational thinking that can cope with the dynamics:
Vision - Clear communication in leading your staff through change(s) that we can’t foresee
Understanding - Listening for details and engage all resources you need early and often
Confidence - That you and your team will rise to the challenge if we work together
Adaptability - Advance processes for the future which were not thought possible or suitable before
Take the time to reflect on how the turbulence of the last couple of years changed your paradigm related to lab management. There will be a need to continue to make changes in thoughts and approaches to lab management practices in relation to how the world around us and staff expectations evolve. There is no one prescription that would be right for all labs. We all need to be mindful that we are in a different place in which we need to comprehend adequately various stressors in play to manage the people and processes in the lab.
Submitted by Richard Durand, ALMA Board Member and Director, Analytical and Material Science at Sun Chemical Corporation