Manage the Unexpected

As organisations cast a wider net for opportunities in turbulent, global markets, managing the unexpected has become the new norm. Despite adopting more sophisticated technologies, data sets, tools and processes to cope, firms are more dependent than ever on hiring and developing key talents to innovate, build resilience, and navigate the unknown.

September 2015

Although the need for people to adapt is nothing new, the dynamic changes underway in firms and markets are both qualitatively (scope of change) and quantitatively (pace of change) different nowadays – and therefore demand new ways of working, thinking, innovating, and collaborating.

Four factors (VUCA) determine the leadership and resilience capabilities that all organisations need to succeed:

Volatility – the nature, speed, volume, magnitude, and dynamics of change: This type of challenge may be unstable or unexpected, but it’s not necessarily hard to understand because knowledge about it is typically available.
Uncertainty – the lack of predictability of issues and events: Often, this type of event’s basic cause and effect may be known – so change is possible, but not a given.
Complexity – the confounding of issues and the chaos that surrounds organisation: This situation has many interconnected variables – some information may be available or can be predicted, but the extent or nature of the situation overwhelm people.
Ambiguity – the haziness of reality and the mixed meanings of conditions: Causal relationships are totally unapparent, creating a situation of “unknown unknowns”.

Sources: Bennett, N. & Lemoine, G. J. (2014) What VUCA Really Means for You, HBR, Jan-Feb; Kisinger, P. (2014) Adaptive Leadership for the VUCA World: A Tale of Two Managers, Thought Leadership, Thunderbird School of Global Management.

Referenced techniques


Business Continuity Management / Business Continuity Planning

The Business Continuity Management concept has been created to help business professionals to identify and mitigate risks which threaten to disrupt essential processes and services in their organisations.


Crisis Management

The concept treats 'crisis management' as a relatively new field of business and management research. You will learn how to promptly respond to a crisis and how to ensure that business continuity plans can be effectively executed and managed.


Scenario Planning

The concept describes what business scenarios are and how to build a step-by-step process when developing a strategic plan. You will also learn what factors are critical for the success of scenario planning and the advantages and disadvantages of this approach.

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