We Are in a VUCA Situation And the Good News Is We Are Adapting Pretty Well!

VUCA situation, VUCA

Phrases like “uncertain times”, “unprecedented situation”, “unknown to everyone” have been making rounds all over the world due to the ongoing pandemic crisis. One can say that we are living in a VUCA situation.

Let us go straight into the details of what the acronym stands for. VUCA is:

Volatile: When a situation is volatile, it is susceptible to rapid change(s) and unpredictable events. Take for example the present situation where we were forced to start working with a different methodology, all within a matter of few days.

Uncertain: When a situation is uncertain, there is not only an uncertainty about the future but more often than not, we also don’t have as clear an idea about what is happening even at present. We go on as things happen. Long term planning seems next to impossible. Need we say more?

Complex: A complex situation brings in a whole lot of interconnected factors which lead to various results and implications.

Again, taking from the present situation, we will realise how financial, economic, administrative factors, coupled with the decisions taken by government bodies, health systems paint a very complex picture of what is going on.

Ambiguous: An ambiguous situation is not clear. It is replete with ‘maybe’, ‘whether’, ‘just in case’, ‘until further instructions’.

The very first usage can be traced back to the United States Army War College to describe the situation during the Cold War. According to MindTools, VUCA, and its usage in business and corporate culture can be traced back to when Bob Johansen used it in his book ‘Leaders Make Future‘, in 2009,  while talking about the unpredictable and turbulent forces which can affect businesses and organisations.

Who knew that decades after its first known usage, this acronym would perfectly describe a situation we are in?

But hang on.

It is very encouraging to note that although a VUCA situation is something we are facing right now, it is also something which we have managed to combat quite well.

Although, the very quality of being a VUCA situation means that it will come when we least expect it, so “preparing” for it might sound paradoxical. But aren’t we in such a situation already? So, how does one deal with a VUCA situation according to the book and what is so encouraging about our response to it?

Countering By the Book:

An article by MindTools provides a short and comprehensive guide about countering it:

How To Counter Volatility?

Vision. Long term plans might go for a toss, but there is always space for short term planning. “Vision” doesn’t always mean thinking five, ten, years ahead. It also means charting out a plan that might work well in the next two, three days, a plan which lays out a ‘vision’ about how teams and team members should interact to meet those short term goals, and what they should do if plan A doesn’t work out due to volatility. One can counter volatility with a flexible, short term vision. It involves having a vision of plan B, C, D and so on, no matter how short term.

How to Counter Uncertainty?

Understanding. Sometimes, dwelling on the very fact that the situation is uncertain stops us from trying to get a deeper understanding of the situation itself. By trying to understand the situation in depth, one can get some idea about the possible pros and cons, the possible results, the possible methods one would need to adopt. In short, understanding gives a sense of a wider perspective. Just because it is impossible to get a certain answer doesn’t mean we can’t gain clarity about the possibilities.

How to Counter Complexity?

Clarity. Similar to how understanding about uncertainty helps in trying to think of possibilities, being clear about the complexity of the situation can help to work calmly. Defining the complexity, and its implications to the team members can help see the situation as something which one has to figure out rather than a situation one has been thrust into. Communicating the complexity clearly helps us see the situation as a mathematics riddle to be solved with collaboration and adaptability, making it much less daunting. It involves communicating clearly (and hence bringing it within the grasp of everyone) how factor A might lead to factor B, which might lead to factor D through some strange workings of factor C.

How to Counter Ambiguity?

Agility. So what the situation is ambiguous? We can counter it with our own adaptability and flexibility. An attitude which is open to change, willing to learn new skills and willing to step beyond one’s role goes a long way in changing the way we perceive ambiguity.

Our Response:

When we think of it, many organisations have already in their own ways countered this VUCA situation, especially when some restrictions are being lifted.

It is Vision which has led many an organisation to think of ideas to work in shifts, it is Understanding that things are uncertain that has led people to adapt to the new habits, it is Clarity which has made us prepared about the fact that this is the “new normal”  and most importantly, it is Agility and flexibility which has kept us all working in spite of everything.

 Isn’t this a much needed dose of encouragement we all needed? That we are actually doing our best to combat these times?

“Instead of Back to Normal, Let’s Go Forward to Better”

It is a world of confusion we are living in! As things open up to some extent, we all are trying our best to have a balanced mindset. How about we provide some tips to acquire a positive mindset?

In today’s post, we are going to provide some quick pointers which may be used to reach a state of positivity or at least to a sense of calm. We are here to help you find the signal amidst all the noise. And the signal mostly lies within you.

So, here are some simple tips to stay positive amidst the chaos.

Celebrate:

This obviously sounds contradictory. What is there to celebrate? And how does one celebrate when we aren’t supposed to be near each other, literally.

Celebrating little accomplishments is necessary to stay sane. Whether you are working remotely or in the office, focus on the day to day accomplishments. It could be anything from successfully learning a new digital skill, to having met a deadline successfully, to finally getting in touch with a client after a long time. Gather colleagues over a Zoom meeting maybe once or twice a week just to celebrate the tiny to major accomplishments of each individual, collectively. If you are in the office, spare a few minutes at the end of the workday and maybe have a session where everyone claps and provides a shout out to each individual’s accomplishments of the day.

Or just give yourself a pat on the back, maybe do a little jig, and have a mini-party by yourself!

Look After Yourself:

The WHO had listed out some guidelines to look after oneself a couple of months ago. Those guidelines apply even now, in fact more than ever. The pandemic is far from over, and just because many workplaces have opened up, doesn’t mean we should stop following guidelines about mental health and well-being.

In fact, things could be even more stressful now, owing to the worry about one’s health, plus the fact that some of us just follow the office-home, office-home routine, without being able to go to other places like malls and parks to unwind, making it a monotonous life, even more than it was before. It is indeed important to follow the mental health guidelines!

Some of the guidelines include:

  •  Maintaining a routine where you also make time to do something you like; all work and no play makes us all gloomy!
  • Minimizing news consumption; stay informed but keep the filter on.
  • Having regular (socially distanced) interactions with loved ones.
  • Reducing screen time; forwards will keep coming, people will keep posting, emails will flood but it is important to not drown in information.

These guidelines will indeed help one to distinguish the signal from all the noise, resulting in a calmer mindset.

Ask For Help:

 While we have everyone telling us to be empathetic towards our colleagues in these times, it is also necessary to not take the burden all on oneself.

If you feel overwhelmed by multitasking, or just in general due to the situation, do not hesitate to ask for help. That help could mean delegating certain tasks, or it could simply mean talking to a colleague about how burdened you feel and asking for their suggestions. Or simply just sharing individual struggles with each other, which can help us feel we are not alone in this; sharing is indeed caring, but sharing is also a form of self-care.

Conscious Attempt:

There are articles and blogs telling us to embrace the uncertainty. We are being told to embrace the new normal. Sure, but all of this not possible unless we change our mindset, consciously, deliberately.

Studies have shown it is possible to rewire your brain, to train your brain to see the positive in any situation.

Some quick ways to begin are:

  • Observe your thoughts, focus which ones are negative, which ones are positive. Focus on the positive, and for the negative ones, start thinking of possible ways to handle them instead of dwelling on them. Diverting to a solution oriented approach from a problem focussing approach is an important shift.  
  • Look for (at least) three positive things that happened during the day. It could be anything supposedly trivial, like being able to wake up strong and healthy; or successfully starting your work on time; or having a heard the funniest joke from a colleague. Do you see how little celebrations can be found anywhere?
  • Look after yourself. It is not surprising that most of the guidelines for the pandemic include taking care of one’s mind and body. Now, it is understandable that it is not easy to always find time, but it is the conscious effort to do so that makes the difference, which gives signals to your mind and body to do something, rather than being stuck on a negative state of sinking thoughts.

So, in our own conscious attempt to focus on the positive, we would like to give you, the reader a shout-out for handling a global pandemic the way you are doing so. The fact that you are reading this article shows that you are indeed trying your best to keep a balanced outlook amidst the chaos. Kudos to the human spirit!

Thinking Ahead At Present: Life After COVID-19

Everyone has talked a great deal about how to go about with present situation, which has forced us to change our lifestyles. But how about we try to think a little ahead, and try to see how to go about after it’s all over? How do we go about creating, or re-creating our life after COVID-19?

No one really knows when things will entirely “unlock”. Perhaps a wise thing to do right now thus is to utilise this new pace of living and think about some important things about our life and career. Instead of thinking about it when things do get back to normal and ending up getting overwhelmed, it might not be a bad idea to start on a path right now, so we might reach to an answer sooner or later.

A little mental health warning first, before we embark: we are not advocating over-thinking and driving oneself into a panic mode. It is ideal to take one day at a time in the present situation. What we are saying is this: now is a good time to think about all the things we have been sweeping under the carpet since ages, and sort one’s priorities.

The Museum Analogy:

In an article by FastCompany, author of the book “Curating Your Life: Ending The Struggle For a Work-Life Balance”  Gail Golden gives us a wonderful analogy to think in terms of when we are on our path to setting our priorities.

The expression “work-life” balance implies as if we are on a tight-rope, balancing things like an acrobat. Instead of that shaky and stressful analogy, Gail Golden suggests we look at our life the way a curator of a museum does. We think of three or more important “artworks” of our lives, which need care, attention, in other words, the main focus of our museum. The others, the side exhibits, and then those which can be put aside for now.

This a novel way to direct one’s time and energy in the right direction.

But it might get a little tricky…

Gail Golden talks of the difficulties of this approach,

“There are things that you may do because they’re meaningful and enriching for you, and things you do that you don’t like very much but your boss or your family needs you to do them. You cannot ignore the priorities of the people around you. The danger is we make everybody else’s priorities more important than your own all of the time. That’s part of work-life balance that doesn’t work.”

When such a situation arises, mixing approaches can help here. One can resort to making lists of things which go along the lines of being important and urgent, important but not so urgent. One needs to be open to the idea that the necessity and urgency of needs is going to change, and that one does not discard certain “exhibits” out of impulse or unnecessary panic.

When it comes to museums, the past plays an important role.

Think about your own past decisions and why you chose something in the first place to steer clear of impulsive “de-prioritising” of things.

These are the thoughts one now has the time to consider.

A final note: although thinking like a curator of a museum is a good strategy, we cannot stress enough on being flexible and open to new ideas during and after this time. No one knows how the world is going to cope with the normal or even the “new” normal. Having a plan is good, but it is also important that we keep ourselves open to the idea of that plan getting changed.

Mother’s Day: A Hindsight

a hindsight for mother's day image - Copy

 

What does little Birdie say

In its nest at Peak of Day.

Let me fly says little birdie,

Mother let me fly away…

On a lonely Mother’s Day, I woke up with this poem ringing in my mind. So much so , that I ordered Siri to play it for me , though I remembered the lyrics clearly. So many times I had sung this with my little ones, without ever realising , that how hard will the words hit me one day.

The little birdies have flown away and I am in my empty nest.

 

But , hey , hold on, had I not flown away , leaving my Mom’s nest empty?Don’t we all do? We fly away, and eventually , so do our daughters, our little ones. In humans,(not sure about the birds though) sometimes the “Home coming” does happen , but it is short-lived. The mind knows that it is so, and thus easier to go by the FLOW.

 

The reply that the Mother gave to the little Birdie:-

Birdie rest a little longer,

Till your wings are stronger,

So the Birdie rests a little longer ,

And then it Flies Away…

 

How apt is the reply — A mother would also want her little ones to soar the SKY, as do they. However she knows when it is good for them. She wants them to be strong and confident enough to Fly. This confidence comes out in the Young ones when they Face the world – testing their wings. At this time they may or may not know that someone is watching them from below, happy on the upbringing.

Still, a mother is so childlike when it comes to her children, reluctant to part from her proud possessions, hesitant to even have these shared.

The little ones, unfortunately understand this only when they become mothers. Life comes back, a full circle. “It’s payback time, friends”, as my sister jokingly said.

The mothers need to show some maturity , when the Flying Time comes, but it is easier said than done. The lure of the Sky is so High –that it overrules the fear of detachment.

I keep saying to myself that I need to learn, more of- “ Attachment with Detachment”—- But , Can I ? Can Mothers take a Chill Pill ?

 

Looking For A Job in Times Of Lockdown

 

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While some of us have been trying to balance WFH and the chores of our homes, there are some of us who were job hunting when the lockdown was announced. How does one go about looking for a job in these times of lockdown and social distancing? How does one approach companies when the staff is working from home? Whether you are a fresher who was looking for a launch-pad, or someone who was looking for a new opportunity, this is an uncertain situation to be in.

We bring some tips on how to go about searching for a job in times of the pandemic.

 

Online Is The Way:

It is important to remember most companies are working, just not in their offices.

We must keep our search and research on. As we have discussed in our articles about researching about companies, we have a lot of resources available online.

List down the companies you are interested to work at, and start checking their websites and social media one by one.

Checking the websites and social media now is a great time, because not only would they give you an idea about their mission statements, their work culture, but would also give you glimpses about how they are handling the entire WFH situation.

A lot of companies would now be more active on their Facebook, LinkedIn pages as a way to engage with customers and clients as much as possible. It is also likely that the companies would be more quick in responding to emails and messages.

What’s more, some companies which earlier were not too responsive on virtual platforms  may now have realised the value of prompt online communication, leading to faster, and more elaborate and specific responses to queries.

Do not be hesitant in sending out emails and queries, provided you are prepared to begin working in unconventional ways, which brings us to the next point.

 

Be Prepared:

Send out emails to the companies you are interested in working at, but make sure you let them know that you understand that times are uncertain.

Be prepared in case the companies give out vague or ambivalent or diplomatic responses. Some companies might tell they would let you know once things get “normal”, and you might have to wait out the lockdown.

Some might offer a role which can be done through minimal online training or no training and is more suitable for a WFH setup, but this role might be different than what you were originally looking for.

Some might offer a more short-term role, which might be important as long as long you are working remotely, and that which might undergo a change once the situation gets back to normal.

Here, you need to consider the urgency. How urgently do you need a job right now? Considering factors such as past savings, family responsibilities, work experience, internet resources, etc., coupled with the online research you undertook about the company should give you a fair idea about a) which companies to send out emails to, and b) what to expect from each company c) and which offers to consider.

 

Be Visible and Don’t Stop Networking:

Based on the urgency of your job search, keep networking. As mentioned, now is the time most companies would be quite active on LinkedIn and other online social networking platforms.

Find what online connections you have with the particular companies you are interested in working at; see if you can find a mutual connection and get in touch with them (virtually) if necessary to inquire more about the company and how the company is going about hiring processes.

Cash on in the increased amount of time companies would be spending online. Make your presence visible by posting regularly, engaging in discussions and commenting on posts which you find interesting and useful.

 

Take Your Time:

In the current situation, it is best not to think too long term. Consider how urgent is landing a job right now. Consider if this is a good time to learn a new skill or get enrolled in a distance learning program? Is this a good time to start a personal project you were thinking about? Is this a good time to take a break?

Be it in times of lockdown or normalcy, looking for a job gives us a certain down time to think things over. And there will be times when you might not have much to do except wait.

Additionally, in conclusion here are some quick pointers you can keep in mind:

  • Be prepared to appear for virtual interviews and calls. Make sure your internet connection and equipment are working well, with a tidy background. Try the lighting, sound and visibility with a friend or a family before you appear for any professional call.
  • Have a plan B. In other words, be prepared in case things don’t work out the way you wanted them to. Plan B could be anything from “settling” for a role which you didn’t particularly like, to “taking a break” from working, to keep looking.
  • Have a fixed routine. Chart up a time table. Fix the timings when you would research and network, and when you would engage in spending time in hobbies, recreation and chores. Do not forget to spend time with friends and family (through phone and video calls if you are living alone, or regularly if you are living under the same roof).
  • Do not be afraid of the gap in your resume. This is an unprecedented situation, and companies in the future would understand the reasons.