How to Cope with Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity

By one estimate, this spring we leapt 5 years into the future in 8 weeks’ time so if you feel like you have mental whiplash, that might be why.

Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity or VUCA times have painted the landscape of our world collectively for the last year. For procurement officials dealing with fires (both literal and metaphorical) the challenge is how to keep normal business operations going and try to plan ahead for an unknowable future.

Peter Scoblic’s Harvard Business Review article Learning From the Future from July 2020 discusses why we need to step back from “presentism” (putting out fires) in order to be able to imagine future challenges and responses (scenario planning).

(Don’t have time to read the article? Here’s a podcast interview with the author.)

Scoblic recommends scenario planning as an ongoing activity, not just a one-time event because scenario planning is not a crystal ball but rather,  a way to “get [its] personnel thinking about the future in a way that would inform and improve their ability to operate in the present.”

Procurement is in the spotlight like never before.  Now is the time to ask for what you need. Ask yourself how you and your office can help shape the future.  What will you need to navigate the VUCA times? Modernized e-procurement systems? Updated statutes?  Staff training?

Where will you need to be ready to adapt? Continuing supply chain disruptions? Changes in administrations? Natural disaster response?

Oh yeah, that feeling that VUCA times brings up? That is called grief so be kind to yourself. The future is waiting.

NASPO’s own Procurement U will be releasing new courses to help procurement officials through VUCA times. NASPO Members, make sure to check your emails for the coming announcement!

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