Decision making in a VUCA world

The term ‘VUCA’ – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous – is being used more frequently to describe today’s business environment.

It may not be a new phenomenon, but globalisation and the fast-paced advancement of technology has intensified VUCA conditions. In practice, is that the timeframes for threats and opportunities to materialise are getting shorter. As a leader, you have to be aware of the changes going on around you and be able to respond accordingly.

Organisations can do a number of things to improve their chances of success. This article focuses on three: leadership, structure and information.



Leadership starts with a vision – the clearer and more defined the better. Think about what mechanisms you have to communicate that vision and help people understand their part in driving the organisation into the future.

Smartrak uses a tool called ‘strategy on a page’. One half of this single page document covers your core values and beliefs, purpose, unique value proposition, target markets and BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goal). The other half is dedicated to the 3-year, 1-year, and 90-day measurable goals and actions that you believe will drive you toward this BHAG.

We consider this tool part art and part science. The art is in envisioning the future state and stating what you believe are criteria for success. The science is in the constant attention to, and tracking of, progress against the goals. This takes vigilance as well as total transparency across the organisation. Creating, implementing, measuring and refining your plan will help your organisation stay focused and resilient in changeable environments.


Organisational structure

It is worth reflecting on how your organisation is structured to carry out the vision and make decisions in uncertain times. As a starting point, it is useful to consider how you are positioned to answer the following questions:

  • How well does everyone in your organisation understand what you are trying to achieve and the conditions necessary for success?
  • Are the organisational incentives, contracts, structures and culture aligned to support your strategy?
  • Where does growth come from in your organisation and what kind of growth drives you toward success?
  • How do you construct a portfolio of sustaining and innovative options that will create value for your customers, shareholders, and employees?

Geographies, product markets, unique capabilities and an understanding of your growth options all play a part in how you answer these questions.

The answers should not be binary. In a VUCA world, you need to keep options open and think about your strategic moves as a multi-faceted portfolio, not just the individual bets. Think about creating value as a collection of decisions and experiments, not just project by project. Pull back and look at the wider implications. Then, think about integration and the incentives to get new ideas up and running with the right people and processes in place to make this successful.



If leadership and organisational structure are the foundations of decision making in a VUCA world, information is the currency. We are in the era of the knowledge economy. The manufacturing and resource processing economy has evolved to an information processing economy.

Access to information and reliable data gives organisations a competitive advantage. The trick is to know how to collect and, more importantly, analyse the information. Customer engagement activities, facilitated by the use of technology can simplify the collection of information, but how do you derive actionable insights from this data? And, how might you apply the learning you get from these activities to decision making?

Smartrak is constantly working on new ways to synthesise data on behalf of our customers in order to present meaningful and actionable insights. Using data analytics, we help our customers identify trends, exceptions and unexpected behaviours, etc. By turning raw data into insights, we can provide another valuable tool to help the organisation survive and thrive in a VUCA world.

Join the conversation! Let us know how you manage decision making in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world.

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