COVID-19 Uncomfortable Revelations About Agile and Sustainable Organizations in a VUCA World by Chris Worley
Chris Worley’s article, COVID-19 Uncomfortable Revelations About Agile and Sustainable Organizations in a VUCA World, published in The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, is one of four most read articles in the last six months and received 3,995 views and downloads. Worley’s article reveals three implications for research and practice on agile and sustainable organizations in volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) environments. First, organizations and society were unprepared for the COVID virus. Second, organizations did not have the capabilities to respond to the crisis. Third, the pandemic revealed the community’s silence on structural inequality (e.g. financial, social, and racial).
Pre-pandemic, organizations did not prepare for a VUCA event and instead assumed munificence. Organizations repurchased shares, drained cash, and failed to invest in people and capabilities. Most executives avoid thinking through nightmare scenarios -- agile organizations are better equipped because of their sensing capabilities that allow them to act quickly. Agile organizations also reward learning, whereas traditional organizations reward brillant improvisation.
COVID-19 also revealed weakness in our economic and social structures. The pandemic’s impact on communities of color suggests that too much of our leadership, organization design, and research is slanted away from the uncomfortable realities. From these realities, we can ask ourselves, if our leaders are paid to prepare organizations for its future, then why are workers the ones that suffer when leaders fail?
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