Vibing in a VUCA Healthcare World

What is VUCA?

VUCA is an acronym, as you may have guessed, that stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous, and has been around since the early eighties. It serves as a mindset, a metaphorical lens to view the world and its complexities through.

The phrase was further popularized by the military and intelligence communities after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, to define, assess, and plan in the post attack world. VUCA is a tool that can be applied in many industries, though it feels as though it describes the healthcare industry particularly well, especially at our current time.

Is healthcare really VUCA?

The healthcare industry is an incredibly turbulent environment that can and does change rapidly and with little warning. The very nature of our work is uncertain, a patient could be stable one minute and crashing the next, and someone who came in with one issue may develop another. 

On top of that, the economics and the financial health of our organizations are fluid and seem less stable than ever. Regulations and laws, methodologies and best-practices, patient health and even provider health, are all subject to constant change in our field. 

Patient care has become more complex and workforce issues more prevalent, the field is no longer as easily predicted. That’s why it’s so important that we view problems and solutions through a VUCA lens.

How do I use a VUCA lens?

As stated, VUCA is a mindset, a lens through which we may view our problems and potential solutions with a clinical mind and critical eye. The goal is to plan for the best and the worst, while making sure to have enough options in place to respond to any surprise problem quickly and efficiently.

What sort of things can fail? How many can fail at once? What is within or completely out of our control? What can we influence but not control? What’s the best-case or worst-case scenario? What’s the best, worst-case scenario? Is a single set of redundancies enough, or will you need a back-up plan for the back-up plan?

The VUCA Takeaway

The volatility of our world has a strong impact on healthcare organizations, ecosystems, and team members and can have an overall disruptive effect. While some people thrive on uncertainty and pressure, others struggle with it and the same is true of organizations.

It’s important for our leaders to both recognize when the pressure is causing team members to buckle, and what kind of support will be the most helpful. Leaders that evolve and continue to reinforce support networks and produce redundant systems will create organizations that can thrive in a VUCA environment. 

Learn to navigate through a VUCA world with an informed and intentional mindset. Remember that no matter how hard you prepare, there will always be the chance that something slips through the cracks, that’s where your pre-preparation can act as your net. It’s not about stopping everything, it’s about stopping what you can and being prepared for anything else.